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Copyright, 1890, 


Messrs. D. Apple ton and Company, New York. 

Gentlemen : It is with great pleasure that I authorize 
you to publish the translation of the Life of an Artist. 
The importance of your house, and the conscientious care 
which it gives to all its publications, are to me a sure guar- 
a7itee of the attentio?i which this book will receive from you. 
This history of my life is at the same time the genesis of 
my art. It offers also portraits of the painters who were 
my friends or contemporaries, and the history of the move- 
ment of art since 1848 of which I have been a part. 

The great favor with which this book has been received 
in France will find, I hope, its echo among American read- 
ers. I am deeply interested in their opinion, for I am full 
of gratitude for the constant success ivith which their noble 
and puissant country has been pleased to encourage my work 
as a painter. 

Please receive, gentlemen, the assurance of my best 


Jules Breton. 

Courri£res, October 77, i8go. 


With charming frankness and simplicity Jules Bre- 
ton relates in this volume his memories of boyhood, 
the aspirations and struggles of youth, and the associa- 
tions of those later years when Delacroix, Millet, Corot, 
Rousseau, Daubigny, and others of that memorable 
company still lived to the glory of the national art 
which Breton himself represents so worthily. Of his 
own great successes he speaks with becoming modesty, 
but we in America have learned long since to value 
Breton's best work wholly apart from the unthinking 
admiration aroused for the artist whose " Evening at 
Finistere " brought a price at the Seney sale in New 
York which was deemed phenomenal until, at the Mor- 
gan sale in 1886, his painting of " The First Commun- 
ion" reached the astonishing price of $45,500. But 
neither the contention of millionaires for Breton's paint- 
ings nor their presence in most of our larger collections 
nor the exact rank of his art need concern the reader 
of this delightfully intimate autobiography, written not 
from the standpoint of the technician or craftsman, but 
from that of a man whose quick perceptions, fine sensi- 
bility, and command of literary as well as pictorial ex- 
pression impart a rare value to his story of a life which 
has touched or included so many of the significant 


political, artistic, and literary movements of this cent- 
ury in France. It is always, however, as the man or 
the artist that Breton writes his recollections, and we 
can see that politics and social problems have rarely 
disturbed a life singularly serene and devoted to one 
purpose. The picture which he presents is a personal 
one, and in harmony with the dedication of the original 
to "my daughter Virginie, for whom alone the first 
chapters were written originally." A few Americans 
know Breton's poems, but in this autobiography we 
may justly claim the pleasure of presenting the famous 
painter to our public as an author whose hope that 
Americans will find something of interest in this story 
of his life will not, we think, be disappointed. 


The Garden of Delight, the cradle of Adam, we have 
all dwelt in it. 

Those sudden bursts of joy whose source is unknown 
to us, mysterious smiles that without cause gladden our 
hearts, are but dim reminiscences of it. Thus does the 
eye preserve the image of the sun long after it has ceased 
to look at it. 

We all treasure in our memories the splendors of a 
wondrous time, when the light was clearer, the dawn 
rosier, the air more vibrant, the skies deeper and more 
softly blue, than they are now. 

Who does not remember this earliest spring-time, 
when the tender buds mingled their wild fragrance with 
the aroma of the earth ; when we felt the soft clay of 
the garden-paths, still moist from the winter snows and 
only partially hardened by the sun, yield under our 
tread ? 

In those days joyous bushes bloomed with starlike 
flowers, rosy and white, and, forever in motion, buzzed 
with clouds of golden bees. 

Where now are those trees that lived and sang? 
And how many animals were there that we no longer 
meet with in the gardens ? One of these was that little 
elephant, smaller than a mouse, that pushed its slender 
trunk through the crevices in the wall, watching me 


from the shadows with malignant glance, and quickly 
disappearing at my approach. Birds of a pale-green 
color, like that of our grasshoppers, sang among the 

I heard sounds around me as of the voice of one 
talking alone, and I was not afraid. It was the voice of 

And the setting sun ! How large it seemed on 
warm, stormy evenings ; how gloriously it shone among 
the golden clouds that took new and strange forms at 
every moment ! I saw among them the figures of ani- 
mals, of men, and sometimes of the Virgin. But my 
mother never appeared to me, and my eye sought for 
her in vain in those celestial processions ; I missed her, 
for I had known her only for a short time on earth, and 
I knew she was there above. 

The elderly cousin who came in the summer to cut 
the grass on our lawn — she had seen her ! This woman 
and I understood each other, she was so old and I so 
little. She knew so many things ; she sang such beauti- 
ful songs in her drawling voice ! 

One very stormy day she had felt herself raised sud- 
denly in the air and carried bodily to a distance, to- 
gether with her bundle of grass ; and she had seen the 
lightning pass close by her under the form of a fiery 
cock, with swords instead of feathers in its tail. 

I loved her dearly. She seemed venerable to me, 
especially when her figure grew indistinct in the twilight 
as she returned home in the evening. 

I loved her on this account, and also on account of 
her sickle, which looked so like the crescent moon. 



That my mother was in heaven I had no doubt, but 
I never knew just how she had left us. 

I preserved a recollection of her at once vague and 
intense, which at occasional delightful hours was always 
present with me, revived by certain colors, odors, sounds, 
or states of the atmosphere. 

Then I saw again her languid beauty, her sweet pale 
face, her mouth, expressing mingled melancholy and 
goodness, and her deep-set brown eyes, circled with 
dark shadows, that shone with so tender a light under 
their large white lids ! 

I fancied I could feel again her passionate embraces. 
Ah, I loved her well ! 

She had been ill a long, long time. I recalled her 
sitting in the corner of the wide chimney-place of our 
little kitchen, at times with her breast uncovered, to 
which horrible black reptiles clung, and there it was 
that she one day said to me, " I am going to die ! " Did 
I understand her ? Why did I weep ? I recalled those 
words and others, very commonplace ones. When the 
period arrived at which I was to put off skirts and wear 
for the first time the dress of a boy, she saw through the 
window the tailor coming toward the house, and said to 
me, " Jules, here is your suit ! " 

Since I have grown up I have often shed tender 
tears thinking of my mother and repeating to myself 
those welcome words, " Jules, here is your suit ! " 

My mother ! Again I see the straw hat trimmed 
with wild flowers, and the red and yellow shawl you 
wore in your languid walks in the garden, where you 
were soon to bid farewell to the flowers you loved, and 
that beheld you die ! 


I must have been bad indeed to have vexed you at 
such a time. 

I had received that morning, from my godfather, my 
first sword. I fancied myself a rural guard ! And I 
went to the end of the village in search of some delin- 
quent. I arrived very opportunely. A boy of about my 
own age was crossing the nearest cultivated field. I 
called to him to leave it, and, as he refused to do so, I 
made use of my weapon. The blow struck him full in 
the face, and the poor little fellow's nose began to bleed. 
At the sight of the blood I began to realize the wicked- 
ness of my conduct. I returned home ashamed of it. 
From the garden, where I had taken refuge, I soon 
heard angry cries filling the court-yard. On my account 
the mother of the injured child was abusing my poor 

Mamma called to me, and, as I did not answer, she 
hurried in search of me. Then, seeing myself on the 
point of being discovered, I slipped for safety into an 
asparagus-bed which had not yet been cut, and which 
was impenetrable to every one but me, and there awaited 
the cessation of the storm. 

Soon the young invalid walked no longer in the 
garden. She kept her room, then her bed, and every 
evening before going to sleep my brother and I went up- 
stairs to kiss her. 

After kissing us tenderly she gave us bonbons. And 
one day, when the bonbons were all exhausted, mamma 
went to Arras to buy some more. I did not understand 
then why she remained there. I did not understand, 
either, why she took us, before setting out, to the house 
of a relation who lived at a distance from us in the vil- 
lage, and why we spent the whole day there and received 
more caresses than usual. But on our return home I 
suspected that something strange had happened, for 


going into the empty room, I found Mile. Rosalie there 
crying. She could cry then, this Mile. Rosalie, who was 
so terrible when she punished the children with her long 
switch at the infants' school which we attended, and of 
which she was the mistress. 


But let us leave Mile. Rosalie. 

I should like to go still further back into the past, to 
those first sensations which stand out faintly from the 
confused mist in which my memory, becoming fainter 
and fainter, finally loses itself — the dawn of the begin- 
ning, the light which dimly illuminates nothingness. 
There I see vague white shapes move about, and faces 
bend over me, of which all the features are indistinct, 
except the eyes that shine like stars, there I see smiles 
and eddying whirlpools. 

When I begin to discern more clearly the forms of 
things, building was going on at our house. They were 
adding a new wing to the old part of the structure. Im- 
mense walls rose into the air, and on ladders which 
seemed to reach into infinity men were perpetually going 
up and down. 

They had dug a hole for a pump, and the water they 
drew out of it at first was quite white. I thought it was 
milk — milk from the earth ! I wanted to drink some of it. 

On account of my mother's delicate health, I had 
been brought up by a nurse. Her name was Henriette. 
I called her MhnZre. She was a young widow, a 
brunette, very active in her movements, and she loved 
me as she did her own children — an attachment which 
I reciprocated to the end. 


Poor, and extremely neat, she lived in a room in 
a cottage in the neighborhood, which she divided by 
means of a curtain of cheap material, ornamented with 
blue flowers on a white ground. A single window, open- 
ing on to the street, lighted up an oaken wardrobe, 
kept scrupulously clean, surmounted by an dtagere on 
which were a few pewter vessels, always bright, and 
some rustic earthenware. A high fireplace with white- 
washed, rough-cast walls, a black hearth covered with 
sticky soot, and a few straw chairs complete the picture. 

When the curtain was raised a double alcove, so 
dark that one could scarcely distinguish the two beds in 
it, was revealed to view by the light of a small window 
set in the wall. There it was that Memere often put me 
to sleep to the droning sound of some village lament. 

When I was able to walk, I still went quite naturally 
to the house of Memere to play with her two boys, both 
of them a little older than I. I preferred their coarse 
food to ours, and I always arrived at meal-times. Hen- 
riette would bring to the threshold of the open door the 
large black pot filled with steaming potatoes, their skins 
bursting open, and, seated on the floor around it, our 
hands for forks, we all would eat heartily. 

One day, coming in hastily, I struck my foot against 
some obstacle which lay in the way, and fell with all my 
force against the edge of the pot, cutting myself severely 
under the lower lip. Henriette ran to me on hearing 
my cries and, frightened at the sight of the blood gush- 
ing forth, clasped me in her arms and carried me quickly 
to her little garden that opened out on the fields. 

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in spring. 

The pain grew less ; I restrained my tears and stam- 
mered : " Memere, don't cry ; 'tis nothing ! " Suddenly 
I pointed with my finger to a large yellow mass at the 
end of the garden, so bright, so extraordinarily bright, 


that only to think of it dazzles me with an excess of 

Henriette understood what my outbursts of delight 
and my extended arms meant, and carried me toward 
this marvel, which was nothing more than a field of 
colza in bloom. I have never seen another like it, but 
every other colza -field delights me because of that 

My nurse plucked me a branch, and since then colza- 
flowers always smell sweet to me. 

It was at about this time that I first knew what fear 

Meniere brought me home one evening from a house 
at some distance from ours, where night had overtaken us. 
The streets were dark, the outlines of the roofs blended 
imperceptibly into the blackness of the sky, and everything 
appeared still darker from the lines of light that escaped 
through the cracks of the closed shutters, fiery arrows 
that all pointed in the darkness toward my eyes with a 
persistency that had something like sorcery in it. I 
buried my head in Henriette's bosom, and remained per- 
fectly still. I had already been told of the horrors of 
hell, and the thought of them redoubled my terror. 
Suddenly at the turn of a street an extraordinary noise 
burst forth, and at the same time I heard a crowd of 
people, passing and repassing, close beside me. We were 
in the midst of the tumult — the harsh sound of rattles, the 
cracking of whips, the clashing of iron pots and pans. 
Frozen with terror I clung closer and closer to Henriette. 
I closed my eyes convulsively, shutting the lids tight, 
and yet I saw — I saw a legion of black devils, who pur- 
sued me, brandishing long bars of red-hot iron, and ut- 
tering ferocious chuckles and abominable cries. 

When we reached the house I heard my nurse say, 
"They are blowing the horns for Zagu6e." 


To blow the horns for any one means, with us peas- 
ants, to give him a charivari. 

They were blowing the horns then, for Zaguee, an 
old beggar-woman, who, with her owl's head and red 
eyes, looked more like a sorceress than an ordinary 
human being. 


I have since seen many magnificent gardens, but 
never one that could make me forget the garden of my 
father — for me the first and only garden. 

Surrounded by walls covered with espaliers, and 
crowned by vines with a verdant frieze, it was divided 
into squares by wide sanded walks, into which paths, 
bordered with sorrel, opened. At the various points 
where the paths met, pear-trees spread out their branches 
in the form of an arch. 

A true French garden, with its beds of vegetables 
and its flower-borders. 

At the entrance, between two grass-plots, a low mar- 
ble pillar, surmounted by a sun-dial, rose from the midst 
of a clump of anemones. 

But the wonder of the garden was the grotesque 
stone figures at its four corners, that gleamed in the 
sunshine, perched on high wooden columns painted 

They represented the four seasons. 

Spring, Summer, and Autumn, chubby-cheeked and 
plump, bore, one of them her basket of flowers, another 
her sheaf, and the third her vine-branch, laden with 
black grapes. 

As for Winter, I do not know why it bore no resem- 
blance to the other seasons. It was represented by the 


naked figure of a woman, of larger proportions than theirs, 
the head and shoulders only being covered with a kind 
of sackcloth. 

Huddled up and crouching with the cold, this figure 
seemed to shiver, in spite of the brands that burned at 
its feet. 

This want of harmony in the statues puzzled me. 
Doubtless this figure replaced a former Winter, broken 
by some accident, for it was newer than the others, and 
its outlines, more delicate than theirs, had not yet quite 
disappeared under the numerous coats of paint which, 
for a long time past, had renovated the figures each suc- 
cessive year. 

Such was this garden, for me the garden of Eden ! 

Here, among the flowers and the insects, my first 
sensations, my first reveries, had birth. 

Often, in the silent solitude, I would lie stretched on 
my back on the grass in the sunshine. Close to my face 
were the long blades of grass, seeming tall as trees, and I 
would let my fancy wander far away with the clouds 
floating past, while above me the branches of an immense 
poplar, which grew in our neighbor's garden, reached, 
quivering against the blue sky, into space. 

At every breath of wind, every branch set in motion 
its flakes of cottony seeds that, becoming detached, fell 
softly at my feet ; and, through the shadowy depths of 
the tree, occasional glimpses of the sky gleamed like 
blue stars. And the swallows darted past, flew round 
and round, hovered above me and then soared high into 
the air, diminishing in size, until they seemed no larger 
than the insects on the dandelions beside me. 

Clumps of various flowers surrounded the grass-plot. 
Among the bees and insects that gleamed golden, pur- 
ple, and emerald as they flew, the day-moth would sud- 
denly appear like a flash of lightning, and, without 


pausing in its flight, would dart from flower to flower, 
hovering an instant above each with almost invisible 
wings, and plunging into its cup the slender proboscis 
that, lengthening itself out, wound round and round 
like a hunter's horn. And what delicate music accom- 
panied these pure visions ! 

Buzzings, rustlings, murmurs, the sound of insects 
brushing against the rose-leaves, and of birds sharpen- 
ing their bills. 

Where find again the ineffable delights of these twi- 
light hours when the red flowers were already black, while 
the blue ones still shone brightly ! 

The beetles whizzed blindly against my face, the 
night butterflies described indistinctly in the gathering 
darkness the abrupt zigzags of their flight, and from be- 
hind the trees the moon cast pale, trembling shadows 
on the walls. I experienced a certain pleasure in pene- 
trating into the darkest places among the foliage, and 
feeling mysterious shudders run down my back at see- 
ing some strange nocturnal animal, shrew-mouse or sala- 
mander, moving on the ground. 

The profound silence was broken only by the move- 
ment of some bird concealed among the branches, and 
which I had awakened ; or by the strange sound borne 
on the breeze from the distant marsh — the harsh croak- 
ing of the innumerable frogs making there their accus- 
tomed tumult, and by the shrill and ceaseless chirping 
of countless grasshoppers. On one of those evenings 
when I had been allowed to remain out later than usual, 
the idea occurred to me to shake a rose-bush at the end 
of one of the walks, for the purpose of bringing down 
some cockchafers, I think it was. But what fell out of 
the bush began to hop about in the flower-border. Cock- 
chafers do not hop, frogs do not climb rose-bushes. 
Here there was some mystery which made me tremble 


at once with joy and terror. Yes, little living things 
were jumping and hopping about among the flowers. 

I trembled, but I had the courage to put my hand 
on one of these strange little beings. O joy ! I felt 
feathers ! The rose-bush sheltered a bird's nest ! 

When I look far back into the mystery of the past, I 
find among the flowers of the garden a little girl, fair 
and rosy, with blue eyes. This was my sister Julie, who 
had come into the world two years before me, and who 
was so soon to leave it. 

Important events make but slight impression on 
children, and I have no recollection of her death, which, 
they say, caused the death of my mother, who was in- 
consolable for her loss. But I remember that one day 
she was swinging from a ladder, her feet brushing the 
ground, and her charming head, from which the hair fell 
in a shower of golden curls, thrown back, while she 
sang in her sweet childish voice a couplet which I have 
never since heard, and of which the two following lines 
have remained in my memory : 

" Des souliers gris 
Pour aller au Paradis — " 

I find, too, among the family relics, a curl of her 
hair, which seems still to keep a gleam of its former 


Every year, as soon as the fine weather set in, the 
painter Fremy came, and his arrival was a great event. 

I can see him now with his important air, his crook- 
ed nose, and his jacket of maroon-colored cloth, unpack- 
ing his painting implements and his color-pots. 


The first time I saw this man, I said to myself, " I 
will be a painter ! " 

He would glance at me severely whenever I touched 
his pencils or his book of gold-leaf. 

He was very grave, and scarcely ever spoke. When 
he felt in the humor, however, he would talk to me 
about the various chateaux where he had worked. 

He told me wonderful things about them, but I 
could not then imagine anything finer than the paternal 
house, especially after this same Fremy had repainted 
the wide plastered facade, with its pediment ornament- 
ed with a lyre of a bright rose-color, the large door yel- 
low, and the shutters a cheerful green. 

This most important part of the work being finished, 
the painter would descend to details, and now indeed 
my joy burst forth. I watched him as he took out the 
little pots that contained fine and brilliant colors, from 
his tin box. The first thing to be done was to retouch 
a painting of the setting sun on the ceiling above the 
staircase, and to renovate the marchande d' amour above 
the mirror on the parlor mantel-piece. Then the turn 
of the Chinese would come. 

The court-yard of the house was in the form of a 
square, and was partly paved, partly sodded. It was in- 
closed on three sides by the main portion of the build- 
ing, and two side wings, composed of the dining-room, 
the kitchens, the bake-house, and various sheds. This 
yard was separated from the back yard and the garden 
by a railing. 

Overlooking the back yard was a square pigeon- 
house, resting on four pillars and terminating in a chef- 
dozuvre of architecture. 

This pointed roof consisted, in the first place, of a 
sort of small, round wooden temple, supported on an 
iron shaft, and surrounded by little columns, the bases 



of which, set in a circular flooring, remained in air. As 
the crowning glory of this diminutive temple of the sibyl, 
there hung over it a sort of extinguisher, ornamented with 
bells and terminating in a ball, through which passed the 
iron shaft on which turned an enormous weathercock — 
the famous Chinese, who sat in the midst of the land- 
scape smoking his pipe. You may imagine the effect ! 
All this took up fully a third of the pigeon-house, and 
did not frighten the pigeons. I remember that some 
years later, on a certain stormy night, we heard an 
ominous sound, and in the morning the temple was 
found lying broken to pieces on the ground, and the 
Chinese, all disjointed, beside it. But we must not an- 
ticipate events. 

Fremy, assisted by a workman, set up his ladder and 
unfastened and took down the Chinese, who, with every 
step which Fremy took, seemed to grow larger, and soon 
I was able to look at him close by, and to measure the 
thickness of the flooring of the temple, which was 
strengthened by iron plates fastened with large nails. 

But if I clapped my hands with delight when the 
painter brightened the jacket of the figure with a splen- 
did chrome-yellow, what was my joy when I saw him, 
for the purpose of repainting its trousers, mixing blue 
with the yellow to obtain a most beautiful bright green ! 

After this, the " Four Seasons " were ranged around 
the shed, leaving their vacant pedestals and the deserted 
garden behind them. 

And, indeed, they stood in great need of the paint- 
er's help, for they were covered all over with spots 
where the old paint had blistered and fallen off in 
scales. High up on their pedestals this was scarcely 
noticeable, but close by it was hideous. Fremy scraped 
them carefully, gave them a first coat of white paint, 
and then, like a veritable magician, restored to them the 


appearance of youth and life, touching their lips and 
chubby cheeks with carmine, and their fixed and squint- 
ing eyes with brown, while thousands of little insects 
settled giddily on the fresh paint, to remain fastened 
there by their wings till the following spring. 


I made the acquaintance of my uncle Boniface, 
whom at that time I called my Lille uncle, about 1830. 
My mother had not yet begun to keep her room, and 
still attended to the details of housekeeping. 

No one around us suspected the influence my uncle 
was fated to have on our destinies. But one might 
fancy I had a presentiment of it, for, although I was then 
only three years old, I remember the minutest details 
preceding and accompanying his arrival. 

The sun was shining. I was gay as a lark. I had 
promised to be very good ; and I was the more disposed 
to be so, as I expected some handsome present from a 
man coming from a large city, and who must be of some 
importance, judging from the assiduous preparations I 
observed going on. 

Ever since morning the house had worn an air of 
festivity and joyous anticipation, in which the masters, 
the servants, and even inanimate objects shared — the 
fresh flowers on the chimney-piece, the table glittering 
with its shining silver, and the antique bottles covered 
with a bluish cloud, iridescent with time, and of which 
the corks were beginning to crumble into dust. I remem- 
ber with what respect and with how careful a touch my 
father set these bottles always in the same place on the 
console fastened to the parlor wall. 




My mother walked to and fro, and my father stood 
with his eyes fixed on the newspaper, reading it half- 
aloud in an indistinct voice. 

Taking up a sheet of paper I tried to imitate this 
odd way of reading, making my parents, who saw in 
this a mark of a precocious intelligence, laugh, when 
(my dear uncle, you were no ordinary man, since I can 
recall and recount with pleasure details so insignificant 
regarding you) — when the rolling of carriage -wheels 
was heard, first in the street, and then entering the court- 

We hurried out, uttering joyful cries of welcome, 
and for the first time I felt myself raised in the arms of 
the generous man to whom I owe everything. I shall 
speak at length of him later on. All that I could ob- 
serve on this day was, that my uncle was a man of ele- 
gant bearing, that he wore a blue coat with gilt buttons, 
in the French fashion, light-colored trousers, and a wide 
white cravat ; that he held his head erect, and that his 
high and wide forehead was surmounted by a superb 
toupet, trimmed in the form of an arch, which must 
have been the object of special care. 

I was not disappointed in my expectations from him : 
he brought me a bright hunting-horn. I loved him at 


Besides the persons already mentioned, there were 
in the house my maternal grandmother, Scholastique 
Fumery, who had long been a widow, my grandfather, 
Dr. Platel, having died many years before ; Joseph Car- 
pentier, an old soldier of the empire, and his wife, Phil- 
lipine. If we add to these the persons hired by the day 


— the gardener, Buisine, nicknamed Frise, often accom- 
panied by his son; the bueresses (laundresses) ; the car- 
penter who split the firewood, a work that occupied a 
long time ; a joiner, who for months and months ham- 
mered, planed, and smoked innumerable pipes in the 
unfinished parlor of the new building ; and our little 
companions dressed up by their sisters, who came to 
play with us— it will be seen that there was no lack of 
animation in our house. 

My father, the steward of the Duke de Duras, for 
whom he superintended important estates, among others 
the forest of Labroye, was compelled to be often absent 
from home. 

Besides this, the functions he exercised as assistant 
of the justice of the peace often detained him at Carvin, 
and compelled him to take a part in many of the affairs 
of the canton. Thus it was that he was seldom at home, 
and when there he was always busy, scarcely ever leav- 
ing his desk, which was always covered with maps and 

Before his marriage he had been a lawyer's clerk in 
the office of my uncle Platel, at Herim-Lietard. 

He had been a member of the municipal band of 
that city, which explains the lyre on the facade of our 

I have seen his abandoned buccina, which for a long 
time was thrown from one corner to another, and which 
was finally hung up in the dark passage behind the stair- 
case. This snake, with its crocodile's head, its large, 
wide-open mouth, and its red eyes, often set me to think- 
ing. Its head and neck still preserved, in the midst of 
the verdigris that overlaid them, a few scales of lacquer 
and gold. 

My grandmother never left the house ; I may even 
say that she never left the little kitchen, where she sat 



in her chair beside the window looking into the yard. 
This window was to the left of the large chimney-piece, 
in the style of Louis XV, of finely carved marble, which 
had belonged to a chateau that had been pulled down, 
and in which Fremy had been. She walked with diffi- 
culty on account of her age, her stoutness, and the short- 
ness of her feet. Only on fine summer afternoons would 
she carry her chair to the grass-plot under the large 
cherry-tree in the yard. She spent whole hours there 
knitting, paring vegetables, or shelling peas. 

Emile's nurse would come with her charge and sit 
beside her in the shade, while I played on the grass with 
my little brother Louis. 


It will be seen that under these circumstances I 
must have enjoyed a liberty almost without limit, spoiled 
as I was by the servants and by those of my playmates 
who were in an inferior position to mine ; and that I 
easily escaped from the surveillance of a father who was 
often absent, of a mother who was dying, and of a grand- 
mother who was almost helpless. I abused this liberty 
by running about the streets. 

I brought home from there bands of little scape- 
graces who gave me lessons in boyish tricks by which I 
profited only too well. I went so far one day as to throw 
stones at the windows which opened into the garden, 
breaking all the glass, only to prove to the little rascals 
who applauded me that I was far above considering the 

Yet there was something good in me. I felt my 
heart filled with tenderness for my parents, and with 


compassion for the poor who, on Saturdays, crowded 
our court-yard. 

I even felt an inward satisfaction in conquering the 
disgust caused me by their beggars' rags, and above all 
by the sight of physical deformities — a disgust which, 
in certain cases, became horror. I felt myself at times 
seized with a trembling when I held out the sou which 
I was charged by my grandmother to give to certain 
cripples. I shuddered only to hear the noise of their 
crutches on the pavement. 

But the idiot, Benesi, inspired me with no repug- 
nance, because he was always good and always clean, 
with his gray coat and his coarse shirt, whose collar cut 
his enormous ears, adorned with rings. I would scarce- 
ly even ridicule his stammering when it took him two 
minutes, in speaking to my uncle, to say, " Monsieur 
Biebieeniface. ' He had a strange appearance, however, 
with his large nose, wide mouth, and head the size of 
one's fist, close-cropped, and streaked with furrows like 
a potato-field. 

What solicitude, like that of a faithful dog, he mani- 
fested for his blind sister, whose guide and careful guard 
he always was ! 

Therefore it was that we protected B£n£si, and de- 
fended him against the street boys who threw stones at 
him and made fun of his insane but harmless fits of 

My parents, seeing that I was beginning to grow 
wild, sought to put me under the care of a good woman 
of the neighborhood, who kept a school for little children. 
Bat, when we had reached the house, I rushed toward 
the door and clung to it so desperately, uttering furious 
and persistent cries the while, that they were obliged to 
take me home again. Some time afterward they had re- 
course to the terrible Mile. Rosalie, an old maid, a for- 


mer servant of the cure*, who kept an infants' school. I 
was more docile in allowing myself to be taken there : 
in the first place, because my brother Louis, who was 
now old enough to go to school, accompanied me ; and, 
in the next, because the little carriage which they had 
ordered from the joiner of the large parlor, so long ago 
that they had forgotten all about it, being at last fin- 
ished, after the smoking of innumerable pipes, we had 
the glory of being driven to school by Joseph in this 
brilliant equipage. 

Besides, the implacable switch of the schoolmistress 
soon reduced me to good conduct. I fancy I can still 
feel her blows, when, at the least sign of rebellion, she 
would strike me heavily with it over the head. 


There we were in a little room without ventilation, 
a crowd of children huddled closely together. Doubt- 
less our parents were not long in perceiving the bad 
effect of this rtfgime, from a hygienic point of view, for 
they took us away of their own accord from Mile. Rosa- 
lie's school. Those few months of unhealthy bondage 
made me better appreciate the joys of liberty. 

We resumed once more our life in the open air with 
our little playmates, and that was a happy time. 

Each season brought its games and its festivals. 

I shall have occasion enough to speak of summer. I 
wish now to say a word about our winter pleasures, which 
were worth all the others put together. Winter is not 
always, as we personify it, a melancholy and trembling 
old man, his beard hung with icicles ; nor the freezing, 
half-naked woman, her head covered with sackcloth, 


who shivered, huddled up in the garden, notwithstand- 
ing the plaster flames which Fremy had caused to burn 
with so beautiful a red. Does not Winter rather resem- 
ble, at certain times, a cold and beautiful young girl, 
clad in robes of dazzling whiteness, whose blue eyes 
smile through her veil of mist starred with diamonds ? 

Ah ! what delight when the first snow-flakes eddy 
through the air, like a cloud of white butterflies, and fall 
with velvety softness upon the ground, which is gradually 
covered with their cold and immaculate splendor ! 

How our cries of joy re-echoed sonorously in this 
vibrant silence ! What an awakening for the morrow ! 
The rosy sunlight falls slantingly on the white roofs. 
The sky, of an extraordinary purity, casts a blue shadow 
on the smooth white carpet of snow in the court-yard. 
Among the branches of the cherry-tree, capricious rays 
of light play in rosy hues among the myriad sparkles of 
the iridescent hoar-frost. 

My eyes open wide with delight. They take in at a 
glance all this wonderful glory. All this white splendor 
reflects my soul, which grows white also. I rise quickly, 
impatient to press with my foot the unstained whiteness 
of the walks. 

Like the joyous wren that hops, dazzled, from branch 
to branch, making a fine rain of white flakes fall at 
every bound, my heart beats in a tumult of unalloyed 

How many surprises ! Everything looks different. 
The Chinese, whose hat is now adorned with a garniture 
of plush, smokes snow as he sits, motionless and frozen 
in his temple. The walls of the pigeon-house, pink be- 
fore, look as if they had been painted a brownish-red. 
Here comes Mylord, our spaniel, bounding toward me, 
flecking the snow- joyously with his tail. But has he 
been rolling in the mud ? How yellow and soiled his 



coat, generally so clean and white, looks now ! The 
garden in its robe of hoar-frost looks gayer than in the 

I go into the kitchen, of which the floor, contrariwise 
to Mylord, is whiter than on other days. How bright it 
is ! What mysterious embroidery has covered all the 
window-panes with flowers ? 

I think all the world ought to rejoice as I do, and 
I am very much surprised to hear my grandmother 
say : 

II The snow has come. The poor are going to suffer 
now ! " 

For us, who thought only of our sports, the snow 
meant skating on the ponds, joyous combats with snow- 
balls, and bombardings of the pigeon-house, with occa- 
sional interruptions caused by the numbness and stiff- 
ness of our fingers from the cold, followed by sharp 
pain when we warm them at the fire. 

Soon the snow grows softer and more yielding, and 
we learn to roll it up and heap it in enormous blocks 
that become hard and ugly and are pierced by little 
holes, and which it takes an eternity to melt. 

How soiled and unsightly the garden then looks, 
with its dahlias and chrysanthemums, their leaves hang- 
ing sadly in blackened, shriveled shreds ! 

How those plants must have suffered ! 


In the evenings Joseph takes us into the garden, 
which is all bathed in mist and blue moonlight. He 
holds his lantern high up toward the trees which he 
shakes. At times, a sparrow, suddenly awakened, flies 



terrified against the light, extinguishing it. But Jo- 
seph has already shut the lantern, taking the bird cap- 

At other times it would be a hunt with pactoires. 
Pactoires we called a string attached to the end of a 
long pole and stretched on hoops by means of forked 
sticks. This was a surer and more formal way of trap- 
ping sparrows. 

I was indeed excited when we set out at night, our 
pactoires on our shoulders. Nocturnal things took on a 
fantastic aspect. Here we were, five or six little boys, 
holding our breaths, we who were so noisy in the day- 
time. Joseph set down his lantern on the ground in 
our midst, and our shadows prolonged themselves in- 
definitely in the mist, like the dark spokes of an im- 
mense wheel. A pale light trembled on the walls of the 
barns under the old thatched roofs, whose outlines faded 
imperceptibly into the sky. 

From time to time Joseph set the pavilion of the 
pactoire. Sparrows flew into it from all directions, dazed 
by the light, striking themselves against the hoops and 
uttering little cries of terror accompanied by that noc- 
turnal sound of wings, unheard in the daytime. The 
captives struggled wildly to escape. 

We remained dumb with mingled fear and delight. 

At times the forked sticks became detached from 
the hoops, and it was a matter of some difficulty to set 
the pactoire upright again. We went along looking for 
the thatched roofs ; we crossed court-yards where Jo- 
seph was acquainted with the dogs. These would first 
bark at us and would then come toward us amicably 
wagging their tails. But sometimes we stumbled on a 
dung-hill which we did not see until it was too late, and 
into which we plunged up to the knees. We went on 
to the barns, where everything had a weird and unfamil- 


iar aspect. But the grinning plowshares were less ter- 
rible than the impenetrable darkness of the corners. 


When the weather was bad, when the wind howled 
down the chimney, and the furious and storm-beaten 
figure grinned on the pigeon-house, Louis Memere (the 
son of Henriette) would tell us stories. 

He knew a great many that he had heard from his 
grandfather and from the brickmakers who employed him 
occasionally as a workman. These simple and fabulous 
tales struck our dawning imagination with wonder. Sor- 
cerers, ogres, and demons were mixed up in them with 
God and the Virgin. 

According as the rude plot of the story unfolded, I 
seemed to see pass before me living pictures. I saw 
the peasant who boiled his soup by the light of the sun, 
by means of a magic whistle. I saw Jean d'Arras, the 
shoemaker who hunted in the forest with only his tools 
for weapons. 

What a skillful man must Jean d'Arras have been ! 
With what skill he could strike a hare on the forehead 
with a bit of wax ! It was not long before this hare ran 
against another, and behold the two fastened together, 
forehead to forehead, and unable to stir from the spot. 
How adroitly Jean d'Arras escaped from the wild-boar, 
that, rushing toward him one day, missed him and 
struck the trunk of a tree instead with his terrible tusk, 
piercing it through and through ! How quickly Jean 
turned round, took his hammer, riveted the tusk, and 
killed the monster with a stroke of his knife ! 

But when, having lost himself far, far away in the 


forest, urged by hunger, he entered a solitary house, I 
trembled with him at the thought that this house was 
inhabited by an ogre just about to dine, and whose wife 
was serving him with soup, a meager repast for a giant. 

And scenting in advance the delicious supper he 
would make of him in the evening, what covetous looks 
he would cast at poor Jean, paralyzed with fear ! 

On the other hand, as he was polite, he invited our 
shoemaker to partake of his soup. But the unhappy 
man, whose teeth chattered with fear, could not eat 
even a spoonful of it; and, in order not to disoblige so 
amiable a host, he pretended to carry the spoon to his 
mouth, but poured the contents of it into the pocket of 
his leathern apron, casting meanwhile a glance of ter- 
ror toward the half-open door. 

At last, the ogre having gone out for an instant, Jean 
escaped. Oh, terror ! It was not long before he heard 
behind him, close in pursuit, his ferocious enemy. Jean 
was a swift runner, but the confounded pocket, heavy 
with soup, struck against his stomach and retarded his 
progress. He seized his knife, made a large slit in the 
pocket, and all the soup ran out. Then the ogre cried 
out : "Ah, you knave, I understand your ruse! The 
soup I have drunk keeps me too from running ! " And 
with his long sword he rips his belly open, and falls 

One might fill a volume with the tales that Louis 
Meniere related to us. But we must not delay. It is 
plain that winter was indeed a pleasant season. 

This was the case in those days white with hoar- 
frost, and since, when, enveloped in delightful mystery, 
the guardians of the joys of childhood descended from 
paradise, through openings in the blue sky. 

St. Catharine was the first to come, bringing with her 
heart-shaped spiced cakes, in the center of which, above 



her wheel, was her likeness in starch, surrounded by- 
arabesques made of little dots of colored sugar. 

Francois L J , my father's secretary, generally met 

her on the eve of her festival, on the road from Carvin, 
when he was returning from the office of the justice of 
the peace. 

He announced her coming to us, representing her 
under the form of a simple peasant, seated on an ass 
between two panniers. Once he even brought us bon- 
bons which he had taken from her after threatening her 
with his pitchfork, and tumbling her and her ass into a 
ditch by the wayside. 

And, little ingrates that we were, we had not a word 
of blame for this unworthy proceeding, or in defense of 
the poor saint. 

Afterward came St. Nicholas. He descended through 
the air and entered by the chimney to fill our shoes with 
chocolate May-bugs. It was in this way that he escaped 
Francois L , who was never able to plunder him. 

We regaled ourselves on his bonbons, without showing 
him for our parts, either, any very great gratitude. 

But the child Jesus was the object of all our affec- 
tion. A little boy like ourselves, although the Son of 
God ! What admiration, what respect, what emotion he 
awakened in us ! 

Have you ever observed that those children, who are 
the boldest in the presence of grown-up persons, be- 
come timid and embarrassed in a tete-a-tete with other 
children who are strangers to them ? This is what hap- 
pened to us in the presence of this mysterious comrade, 
radiant with celestial glory. 

What a fascination his image exercised over us ! A 
rosy child enveloped in white, fleecy clouds and clad in 
gauze sprinkled with golden spangles, who smiled at us 
with his porcelain eyes ! In those days they had not 


yet introduced into our villages the Christmas trees, that 
blaze with a thousand lights ; and yet what a delighted 
awakening, when we found under our pillows those 
cakes of a familiar shape, called coquilles, and which in- 
spired us with such veneration that we hesitated for a 
long time, between greediness and respect, before we 
could make up our minds to bite them ! 

And New-Year's-day ! What a festival ! At mid- 
night we were awakened by the rolling of drums, the 
tumult of the big drum and the shrill sound of clario- 
net and flute. The band was serenading in their turns 
the members of the five or six companies of archers. 
They executed in unison the same music more than four 
hundred times in succession — an air which must have 
come down from the remotest antiquity, so strange and 
barbarous it was. 

We could hear it at our house, at times faint as a 
murmur, at times loud as thunder, according as the mu- 
sicians receded or approached, and when it sounded be- 
fore the house all the windows shook and our beds 
trembled at the boum-boum of the big drum, while the 
shrill sound of the fife pierced our ears like an auger. 

We could not sleep all night; but we did not mind 
this, in the first place because the music amused us, and 
in the next because it foretold to us handsome New- 
Year's gifts, sous and silver pieces, which the magnifi- 
cent velvet purses made by our grandmother had been 
waiting for, for some days past. 

When day dawned we jumped out of bed to run and 
kiss our parents. 

How many people came to the house during the 
day ! How radiant did every face look ! The archers 
filed into our court-yard, their ensign floating in the 
breeze, women following them — and then there was 
dancing. The music of the night before began again 


with daybreak, and now we could see the musicians. 
One of these especially, old Gaspard, who played upon 
the flute, delighted us with his red face and hair, and 
his big blue eyes. A hard drinker and a large eater, 
he was soon to end his life at table, at the banquet of 
St. Sebastian, without having so much as finished his 
soup. As he remained there a long time without eating, 
his neighbor pushed him gently, saying to him, "Why 
don't you eat, Gaspard ? " And the poor old man fell 
over dead. 

But he did not now foresee this misfortune, and he 
played his flute with calm animation while we all went 
out to visit our neighbors and friends, tramping through 
the snow, our hands stretched out before us, holding 
open our large purses. 


The recollection of these hours of childhood comes 
to me like the memory of some delightful dream. Ah, 
with what enchanting tenderness those far-off days were 
filled ! What dazzling splendor they assume, seen in 
the midst of the cruel disenchantment of age ! What 
aspirations we had toward heaven ! And at the same 
time how we felt ourselves comrades of the flowers and 
the beloved animals ! Ah, the days of our childhood ! 

To be one's self the dawn and to behold the dawn ! 
Days of marvelous discoveries ! To run about where 
we chose, as we chose, over roads which at times termi- 
nated abruptly, as if there were nothing beyond, as if 
that were the end of the world. 

To be received, on our return home, with fond ca- 
resses by our grandmother. 



And to express all these emotions, so delightful be- 
cause they are infinite and inexpressible, I must make 
use of words which I was then ignorant of. But if one 
were to express one's self as a child does, one would say 
nothing. At that age it is enough to feel. There were 
fresh summer mornings in the garden, when the roses 
were wet with dew, and we plunged our noses into their 
hearts to breathe in the perfume, and at times the little 
insects, that made us sneeze. 

But did it never rain in those days as it rains now ? 
I can scarcely remember any bad weather. I search my 
memory in vain, I can recall only sunshine. I think 
this must be because the Chinese always turned his pipe 
in the direction whence fair weather came ; because 
there was a sort of witchcraft about this figure, so that 
we could always tell beforehand whether we would have 
rain or fine weather by the position he condescended to 
take. Every one consulted him ; even Joseph, who had 
seen so many things when he was in Russia ! When his 
pipe was turned toward the dining-room, we could hear 
the " beast," pan, pan, pan ! — pan, pan, pan ! This cry 
would be repeated all day at regular intervals, with ter- 
rible and persistent monotony. 

All we knew was that the " beast " was far off in the 
fields, and that it was called Torgeos. 

But when the Chinese faced the back yard, this noise 
could not be heard, or was so faint that we had to put 
our ears to the ground in order to perceive a faint pan, 
pan, pan ! — pan, pan, pan ! And, enveloped as it thus 
was in mystery, this cry awoke within us a feeling that 
was almost awe. 

This strange beast must have been gifted with a 
mysterious power, for I heard Joseph say at times : " We 
can hear the Torgeos more plainly now ; it is going to 


But this must have happened very seldom ; for, as I 
said before, I can scarcely recall any but sunny days 
and feast-days. 

When the first cherries began to redden at the time 
of the peonies and new rushes, how gay the Sundays 
were, with their snow-white chapels at the cross-roads 
and close by the hedges, all decked out for the pro- 
cession ! 

How joyous we were ! Kow fine we were ! Every- 
body was in an ecstasy of delight over our beautiful 
caps and our new suits ! And we walked along, our 
hearts brimming over with happiness, holding ourselves 
erect, and clutching tightly the cuffs of our sleeves, which 
were too long. 

The street was full of sunshine. 

Pious women with reverent zeal fastened red and 
blue ribbons in zigzag fashion, bunches of flowers, and 
silver hearts, to the dazzlingly white bedclothes hung 
against the walls, near these improvised chapels. 

Joseph, assisted by the gardener, carried our fine 
laurel-trees in their green boxes to the front of the house 
and set them down before our great door, covering the 
earth in the boxes with white napkins, while we sat 
there in chairs, somewhat ill at ease in our Sunday 
clothes, our hearts beating with expectancy. 

When we grew tired waiting, we would go to the 
garden and put our ears to the ground to listen for the 
sound of the coming procession. 

The bells pealed with all their might, and familiar 
sounds announced the distant chants. The procession 
was approaching. Then we would return to our chairs 
near the great door. Joseph would make haste to finish 
strewing on the ground the rushes, the tall grass, and 
the reeds that he had cut that morning in the marsh, 
mixed with flowers from the garden. The perfume of 


wild mint, peonies, and roses filled the air with fra- 

The old men, sitting at the grating of their yards, 
would kneel down slowly and carefully. On either side 
of the procession boys walked, carrying on their shoul- 
ders the supports for the litters of the saints which were 
to be placed before the temporary altars, and which 
there had been a struggle to get possession of on account 
of the two sous paid for this service. They ran at a 
gallop, and deposited these supports before our chapel. 

Then the saints themselves appeared under slender 
arches covered with leaves and flowers : St. Piat, our 
patron saint, clad in a silver robe ; St. Roch, showing 
the wound in his thigh, his spaniel lying at his feet ; St. 
Sebastian, scarcely two feet in height, but whose sides 
were pierced by arrows of the natural size, followed by 
the brothers of the order, their ensign, on which the 
death of the martyred saint was represented in silk em- 
broidery, floating on the breeze ; St. Catharine, with her 
wheel, and the Holy Virgin, supported by young girls 
dressed in white. 

All these saints, strangely hideous, painted, gilded, 
and silvered by our painter Fremy, passed along triumph- 
antly, shaking and jolting on the iron pedestals that 
rose from amid the peonies that covered the floors of 
the litters, and among which the simple bearers did not 
fail to deposit their rustic caps. 

The defaced and ugly figures of all these saints in- 
spired me with a vague fear, and I could never bring 
myself to laugh at them. At times even the clouds of 
incense and the flickering flame of the tapers seemed to 
transfigure them, and they appeared to live with a super- 
natural life, and from their holy mouths mystic psalms 
seemed to proceed, mingled with the bellowing of the 
chanters and the soft plaints of the ophicleide. 


The cure now mounted the steps of our chapel, and 
while the children of the choir swung their censers and 
rang their bells, and the roses fell about in a shower, he 
blessed the humble peasants, and the rustic procession 
passed on again. 

After the dais of the cure came the notables of the 
village, the municipal authorities in their midst. I knew 
them well. Their faces were indeed the same, and yet 
they seemed different, as if surrounded by a mystic 
aureole. These men had lost every trace of vulgarity. 

They seemed to move in a divine atmosphere. 
And they walked gravely, with bent head, carrying rev- 
erently their large torches, the almost invisible flames of 
which flickered in the air, and which from time to time 
they held downward to pour out the melted wax, that it 
might not drop on their clothes. 

They walked on, soon to be lost to view among the 
fields at the end of the village, as since then, alas ! al- 
most all the persons who composed that procession have 
one by one disappeared in the shadows of oblivion. 


Others, too, have passed into oblivion — all those 
friends of my father who, at the Ducasse, filled our house, 
and in three days devoured the mountain of viands that 
the butcher of Carvin had brought in his wagon on the 
eve of the feast. 

I fancy I can see now the fillets, the calves' livers, 
the rounds, the cutlets, the sirloins, the sausages, the 
calves' heads, the legs of mutton, the sheep's feet, the 
hams, the smoked tongues, and I know not how many 
other things, as they were unpacked from the wagon. 



The pantry was filled with them. I can still perceive 
the savory smell that came from the kitchen, and escaped 
by puffs into the street, to meet the guests whose hearts 
it gladdened. These arrived red and heated by their 
walk, but with sparkling eyes, mopping their foreheads 
with their handkerchiefs ; all eager, all happy, and — all 

There were among them some curious and excellent 
types. The repast lasted all the afternoon. 

Ah ! where has all this sprightly gayety gone ? 


Red epaulets — yellow epaulets — yellow as the coucous 
(primroses) that I gathered the other day in the meadows. 
The red I have seen before (the firemen of Carvin with 
their beautiful tricolored plumes, who were here re- 
cently, had red epaulets), but the yellow ? I made this 
remark to myself as I stood watching countless soldiers 
defiling past our door. For a long time the red epaulets 
and the yellow had been passing, passing, following one 
another in endless succession, to say nothing of the 
epaulets shaped like a clover-leaf, and without fringe, of 
the soldiers who carried the drums. Could it be possi- 
ble there were so many soldiers in the world ! At every 
moment I thought the last of them had passed, and it 
seemed as if the procession were only just beginning. 

They wore large gray cloaks ; broad shakos, on 
which the copper chin-bands glittered; and sabers that 
were very big, but not much longer than mine. From 
time to time, at the entrance to the village, clarions 

These soldiers appeared tired. My eyes, too, were 


tired from looking at this continual movement, but I 
could not take them away, for it was all very beautiful, 
and very amusing, especially the yellow epaulets, yellow 
as the coucous that Joseph, Louis, and I had gathered 
in the Malaquis meadows, that were all yellow and fra- 
grant with them. We had brought home a large basket- 
ful. And what happiness it was in the evening after 
we had made them up into fine bouquets to which long 
strings were attached, to throw them after the bats, 

crying : 

" Katt' soris 
Rapasse par chi 
T'auras du pain musi 
Et de l'eau a boire 
Katt' sori tout noir ! " 

At last the red epaulets and the yellow epaulets have 
all passed, and the last of them have stopped in the vil- 
lage square, where something to drink is distributed 
among them. 

In the evening I was made very happy by seeing 
some soldiers come to the house, among them a superior 
officer, who had so much gold on his uniform that I 
took him for a king. 

A sight so new to me had confused my head, and I 
dreamed of it all night, and in my dreams I saw again 
our brilliant officer. He had on, like the Charles X in 
the picture in my father's room, a large ermine mantle, 
and he wore a golden crown. He was seated gravely 
on Mile. Rosalie's red arm-chair on the great stand over 
against the gable end of the town-hall ; and beside him, 
in place of the scepter, rose the terrible switch. He 
was teaching the alphabet to the soldiers ranged in front 
of him, and his primer was nothing else than the var- 
nished leather chin-band of my cap that I had lost some 
time ago. 


But the evening advanced and the time for recrea- 
tion arrived. The bats flew round and round in the 
air, and the soldiers threw their yellow epaulets at them, 
crying : 

" Katt' sons 
Rapasse par chi ! " 


On the following day the troops departed, and I 
thought no more of them ; but for some time afterward I 
heard a phrase repeated continually which I had never 
heard before, " The Citadel of Antwerp." This must 
have had reference to some great event, I thought. 
Contrary to the habit of most children, I scarcely ever 
asked questions, preferring to find out for myself the 
explanation of things, either through laziness, or in order 
to keep my judgment unbiased. 

But the great event of the day was when the little 
band that my father was organizing came to rehearse at 
our house. I now discovered that the words " Citadel 
of Antwerp " must be the title of the quickstep played 
by this embryo orchestra. 

This band was to form a part of the company of fire- 
men, recently organized also by my father, and in which 
he had refused to accept any grade, in order thus to ele- 
vate the -position of simple fireman, and to stifle the 
germs of discord caused by disappointed ambition. 

Every one's thoughts, then, were full of this band. 

Some fifteen young men came to our yard, at first 
without instruments, to learn to march (one, two ; one, 
two) ; and, when they lost step, they would take a little 
skip on one foot to fall into it again. 



This brought a number of people around our great 
door ; and the Lhivers, our neighbors, would climb upon 
the wall which separated our back yard from their little 

Then, after two or three rehearsals of this kind, the 
bright copper instruments arrived, unknown, for the most 
part until then, in our village. 

My father had chosen the piston, at that time a nov- 
elty. His buccina, however, that neglected hydra, which 
had so long kept guard over the staircase, made its reap- 
pearance in the light of day, on the shoulder of a rustic, 
after it had been so effectually cleaned that all the lac- 
quer and gold had disappeared from it, leaving only a 
little red in the center of the eyes. 

Then this orchestra came every Saturday evening to 
rehearse in our large, unfinished parlor, immediately 
under my room, and I found it delightful to go to sleep 
to the discordant sounds of " The Citadel of Antwerp." 

That was a happy day when we saw the firemen and 
heard their music at the mass of the first St. Barbara. 

They walked to the church in military fashion, hold- 
ing tightly their guns, that gleamed like silver, followed 
by crowds of street boys and gaping girls. 

They all wore military uniforms — the coat with its 
velvet plastron and gilt buttons. But what variety in 
this unity ! 

On one, the uniform, too tight across the waist, 
opened out its skirts like the petals of a flower ; on an- 
other, too loose, its tails would hang down like the tail of 
a frightened dog. There were also a great variety of 
shakos. Some were of oil-cloth, shaped like a blunder- 
buss, the crown bordered by a velvet band, with flames 
and hatchets painted on it. Others, of felt, diminished 
in size toward the crown, and bore symbolic ornaments 
of real copper. 


There was the same difference in the pompons : 
some, thin and scraggy, hung down sadly ; others spread 
themselves out proudly, blooming like fresh peonies. 

And no one dreamed of laughing ! 


This morning I awoke earlier than usual. Why? 
And why this gladness that fills my heart ? My mind, 
still clouded by sleep, does not clearly perceive the 
cause, but it is filled with joy at the confused recollec- 
tion of some extraordinarily happy event. I allow my- 
self to be lulled by this vague remembrance, and pre- 
tend to be still asleep, in order to prolong this state of 
delicious torpor. My grandmother has risen, and I hear 
her movements : the rustling of her petticoat ; the noise 
of her steps, slow and a little heavy, as she walks across 
the floor which trembles at times ; the splashing of the 
water as she pours it out into her basin. 

Outside, the cocks are crowing everywhere : those in 
our back yard clear as a clarion ; ose of our old cousin 
Catharine, those of the Lhivers, and those of Charles 
Ambroise, our neighbors, somewhat less clearly, while 
the crowing of the cocks farther away I perceive only 
by a slight trembling of the air. 

How pleasant it is to listen to all this in the soft 
warmth of the bed ! 

I half open my eyes ; a ray of light illumines a cor- 
ner of the ceiling and the top of the wall, that, lower 
down, is the color of the sky. 

My eyes wander to the picture hanging on the wall 
near the foot of the bed, a ''Return from the Chase," 
where beautiful women are seen going to meet hand- 



some men who carry guns, wear black gaiters, and are 
followed by servants bearing hares and partridges. 

Then my grandmother comes to waken me with smil- 
ing caresses. 

Ah ! now I know, now I know why my heart is filled 
with gladness, why the sunlight dances on the wall. 
The newly risen sun looks me full in the face, pouring 
in through the window his glorious rays. I know why 
he raises himself above the roofs to smile on me thus. 
It is because this day which has just begun is to be 
marked by a memorable event — my first journey ! 

Last night my grandmother said to me, " To-morrow 
is St. Druon's day, and we must get up early, because it is 
a long distance from here to Epinoy, where we are go- 
ing." A league! Only think ! And I who until now 
have scarcely been outside of the village ! Therefore it 
is that I spring quickly out of bed and let myself be 
dressed without making mischievous resistance ; without 
thrusting out my feet when my grandmother hands 
me my stockings, or burying my head in her bosom 
when she comes to put on my shirt. 

A journey ! 

At first we passed familiar things : fragrant and daz- 
zling colzas, on which millions of little black insects were 
gorging themselves; corn in the blade, from which 
flocks cf larks soared up into the air, hovering above us, 
beating their wings and celebrating our departure by 
ever sweeter songs. 

I saw the same golden blossoms, the same dande- 
lions, the same butterflies, the same brilliant beetles that 
waddle on the road and exhale a disagreeable odor. 

But as we crossed the wooden bridge over the little 
river, oh ! first surprise ! A wonderful bird darts from 
the bank, uttering a shrill and prolonged cry. Its 
breast is of fire, and its back of a splendid green, more 



brilliant than the stone of the bracelet that my mother 
forgot to wear when — u A kingfisher," my grandmother 
tells me. 

Here the unexplored regions begin. 

There is a river, a real river, three or four times as 
large as our little river, with real boats on it, that have 
pretty little houses with white windows and green chim- 
neys. The river is like a wide strip of sky. 

A little farther on we found ourselves face to face 
with mountains, almost as high as the walls of our gar- 
den, and as my grandmother sat down here to rest, I 
explored their summits, but without finding there any- 
thing remarkable. At last I utter a cry. I have discov- 
ered a new flower ; a little white bell-flower, delicately 

From this spot we could descry the chapel of St. 
Druon with its slender spire of shining slates. 

" St. Druon," my grandmother tells me, " was a sim- 
ple shepherd, who lived at Epinoy, and we are going 
presently to see his well, all that remains now of his 
farm. He had the gift of being in several places at the 
same time — in church, where he prayed, and in the 
fields, where he kept his sheep. He made miraculous 
cures, and this is why you see those people going now 
to his shrine." 

In fact, at every moment we met groups on the road 
who quickly overtook and passed us. We could distin- 
guish among them the gray figure of the idiot Benesi, 
leading his blind sister as usual. 

Long after they had disappeared we could still hear 
his psalms, his strange stammering seeming augmented 
in the echo. 



, One of the places in the house of which I was 
fondest was the loft, which was large, and filled with a 
crowd of curious objects. I spent long hours there 
rummaging in the dusty corners. 

This place seemed to me worthy of veneration be- 
cause of the many old things, long out of use, and 
which seemed to me dead, as it were, that it contained. 
And then the light entered so solemn, so austere, 
through the little dormer-windows. The air was swal- 
lowed up in it visibly, like dust coming down from 
heaven to add to this earthly dust. 

Alone in the somber silence I was seized by a de- 
lightful sensation of fear, and I could hear my heart 
beat, at times, like a hammer. I heightened this feel- 
ing of secret dread by plunging my arm into mysterious 

At the end of this loft there were two large worm- 
eaten boxes, the one full of unimportant scraps of paper 
that my father used for wiping his gun, and which I 
knew later to be asstgnats, that had once represented a 
small fortune ; the other containing very interesting 

While the pigeons outside hopped noisily about on 
the tiles of the roof, I forgot to turn over the leaves of 
these large old books, yellow with age, whose red edges, 
heavy bindings, and copper corners inspired me with so 
much veneration. 

What wonderful pictures these red books contained ! 

There were lambs, eagles, beautiful climbing plants, 
and the whole life of our Saviour, represented by great 
crowds of very expressive figures. There were groups 
of Jews, bristling with lances, with Jesus in their midst, 

4 2 


his head sorrowfully bent — the innocent victim with 
flowing hair ; old men with beards, wearing large tur- 
bans ; cities, with massive towers and thick walls ; terri- 
fied women and children ; beggars covered with rags 
and horribly deformed ; and all these moved about at 
every page, advanced, withdrew, or disappeared from 
view, to reappear in other situations. 

Who had painted these pictures ? This thought has 
since occurred to me, en seeing the pictures of Callot. 
They were for me the first manifestation of an art which 
was to be the passion of my life. 

They could not at that time serve any direct purpose 
of instruction, as they were too complicated. 

My first master was a stranger, who had drawn a 
portrait in crayon on the side of a barn in the village. 
The picture was full face, and in the mouth was a pipe, 
whose reversed bowl sent its spiral column of smoke 

I copied the picture and gave proof of originality by 
correcting the position of the pipe. 

At the same time the old papers in the loft furnished 
me material for cutting out a thousand arabesques of 
my own invention, with a skill which filled my grand- 
mother and the servants with admiration. 

Later I covered the walls of the large unfinished 
parlor, which the joiner had by this time abandoned, 
with scrawls in charcoal. 

In addition to the wonderful pictures in the loft, I 
saw, in the matter of works of art, the statues and sacred 
pictures in the church, covered with ambus and shells, 
among which a Pieta set me dreaming. It was placed 
very high above the altar. One could divine in it, with 
sadness, the emaciated features of the Christ, his blue 
lips, and the sorrowful eyes of his mother ! 

Peddlers sometimes passed through the village, sell- 



ing pictures — the Wandering Jew, the Prodigal Son, the 
Holy Sacraments — painted against vermilion back- 
grounds. One of these corrected my mistaken idea in 
regard to " The Citadel of Antwerp " ; it represented the 
siege of that city, and there I saw again the yellow 
epaulets, and in the sky a rain of red bullets that de- 
scribed wide, madder-colored curves as they fell. 


About this time an event occurred which excited 
my curiosity greatly. A wagon - load of books, the 
greater number of which were richly bound and which 
awakened my admiration, was unpacked in our court- 

These volumes, an entire library, had been sent on 
in advance by my uncle Boniface, who soon arrived 

In compliance with the last wishes of my mother, he 
had come to live with us, with the intention of remain- 
ing with us for the rest of his days. 

He installed himself in our house in the character of 
severe reformer. Adieu now to all idling in the streets ! 
Adieu to the games of prison-bars in our court-yard, 
which fifty little scapegraces often filled at a time with 
their savage cries. 

He chased away without pity all these brats, among 
whom a few big boys and girls often slipped in. 

Louis Memere, and our neighbors, the Lhivers, how- 
ever, were excepted from these rigorous measures. 

Very soon we were compelled to remain for whole 
hours in my uncle's study, our heads bent over our 
primers cr over the uninteresting Lhomond. 


This study occupied half the width of the house, on 
the floor above the great door. 

It was lighted from the north, the side which faced 
the court and the garden, by a lozenge-shaped window 
of rich colored glass, on which was cut the date " 1830," 
and from the south by the large window opening into a 
balcony that extended its arch under the frontal. 

Near this window stood my uncle's bureau, with its 
double row of drawers, on which were placed two spheres, 
a terrestrial and a celestial sphere, a petrified aquatic 
plant, and some little shells. Then came a porcelain 
stove, and then our bureau which was divided into three 
compartments, and was flanked by three tabourets cov- 
ered with hair-cloth. 

Near the lozenge-shaped window stood a large Bar- 
bary organ which formerly played the overture to 
" Jeune Henri," and which had lost almost all the 
keys of its upper register, so that its bass accompanied 
only a few scattered notes that sounded like a shrill 

One side of the room was occupied by the book- 
case, whose glass doors, covered with green silk, hid the 
books within from view. 

Add to this my uncle's sofa, two or three chairs, often 
littered with newspapers and pamphlets, a stuffed fox, a 
small box containing a flageolet and a wooden bugle, a 
music-stand holding some pieces of music, a horn rest- 
ing on the organ, and, hung around the walls, tables of 
the principal mountains and rivers, and two colored en- 
gravings, representing Vesuvius and Etna in eruption ; 
and when I tell you that all these articles of furniture 
were made of cherry-wood and had been carefully 
thought out, measured, planed, put together, scraped, 
polished, and varnished, one by one, in the odd mo- 
ments left him by his pipe, by the joiner of the large 


parlor, you will be able to form a complete idea of this 


There it was, under the dreaded eye of the master, 
that we spent long hours working, and longer hours 

How often was my wandering attention punished by 
a sudden slap ! For, if my body submitted to the rule 
of an iron hand, my spirit often rebelled, and, escaping 
from this body, immovable on its hair-cloth tabouret, 
flew, now through the beautiful panes of colored glass 
into the garden, now into the street, through the large 
window which my uncle, who loved the fresh air, almost 
always left open in summer. 

We remained there for hours, that seemed each an 
eternity, sitting on those hard seats that made our bones 
ache, and during those long and enervating summer 
days we heard all the sounds of freedom — the joyous 
bursts of laughter of our old companions, playing mar- 
bles or spinning tops ; the goodies of the village hum- 
ming can-cans ; the wheels of the barrows, creaking as 
they rolled ; the vender of dishes and Ulettes (hardware) 
alternately crying his wares and playing on a Pan-pipe, 
and whom we knew to be approaching or receding, as 
the noise made by his cart, as it rolled over the hard 
and uneven pavements, grew louder or died away ; and 
the vender of pigs, who cracked his whip so skillfully, 
and the gruntings of the little pigs, which grew hoarse 
at times with their shrill squeaking; and the drawling 
sweetness of the songs of the embroiderers, whom, in 
imagination, I saw down at the turn of the street, bend- 
ing over their work. 

4 6 


Oh, how the sun poured down his rays, lighting up 
the pools and the dung-hill in the open yard of old 
Thasie, that I could see before me, in front of the bal- 
cony ! How was it possible to avoid being interested 
in the abuse this gossip heaped upon her husband, the 
deaf Jeannot, a surprisingly ridiculous-looking person- 
age with his diminutive figure, his shirt always unbut- 
toned, leaving his red and sunburned chest exposed to 
view ; his face redder still, his bald forehead, his large, 
round nose, and his wide, close-shut mouth, that be- 
trayed the confirmed drunkard ? How was it possible 
to help listening to this plague of his life, who kept time 
to her words with her flail, as she thrashed the corn ? 
How was it possible to help looking at this fantastic 
peasant (whose likeness Van Ostade will show me later 
on), when, to refresh himself, he would climb up into 
his cherry-tree, laden down with fruit that showed pur- 
ple against the blue sky ? How was it possible to help 
looking at the sunbeams as they played on the floor and 
the wall of the study, in which danced a cloud of motes, 
through which the blue fly which darted suddenly into 
the room flew, striking the window-panes and the white 
ceiling frantically with his head and back? And, above 
all, how was it possible not to writhe with impatience 
on the hair-cloth seat of my tabouret on the day on 
which I heard the soldiers marching into the village, re- 
turning from the siege of Antwerp ? 

But this time discipline was less severe, and, leaning 
against the balcony, I could look at my ease at the 
red epaulets and the yellow epaulets — passing, passing, 



So, then, we have soldiers again in the village. 

We go to the square where rations are being distrib- 
uted among them. There are there a number of bags 
on which Louis Meniere is just sitting down, when the 
bag becomes unfastened, and rice runs out of it all over 
the ground. Seeing this, the poor boy gets up fright- 
ened, for a furious soldier aims a vigorous blow at him, 
which he dodges adroitly by slipping aside and drawing 
in his head, tortoise-fashion. The arm strikes the air. 
It was very droll. But nothing amuses me to-day. I 
am sad. My brother Louis is not with us, because he is 
sick at home. They have brought his bed down into 
the little parlor, where godmother (as we call our grand- 
mother) sits constantly beside him. This morning she 
was leaning over him, looking so sad. 

He smiled at me, however. He is a beautiful boy, 
and we love each other dearly ! I can not take a step 
without hearing him behind me. 

They call him Mademoiselle Louise, because no girl 
could have more beautiful blue eyes or brighter or more 
curly hair than he has. This hair is the despair of my 
uncle, who can not succeed in brushing it straight over 
his forehead. In vain he pulls, twists, and wets it ; it al- 
ways returns in the end to its natural curl. Our neigh- 
bor, Lhiver, who is a barber and hairdresser, declares that 
this can never be done, because "there is a nest in it." 

Yesterday the clarionet-players, who lodge at our 
cousin Catharine's, knowing there was sickness at our 
house, asked if it would divert the invalid to hear some 
music. They came into our court-yard, ranged them- 
selves in a circle, and played. Louis said this amused 
him, but I think he did so only through goodness of 


heart, and in order to please them, for he is even more 
good than he is beautiful. 

This morning the sick child is no better. The 
clarionet-players came into the yard to play again. 
Louis whispered to me that it made his head ache. I 
went to beg them not to play, and they went away quite 
sad. Every one is sad — and papa away ! 

To-day no one works. Godmother does not laugh, 
she who is always laughing. My uncle walks to and fro 
in the house and wanders about from place to place — 
from the court-yard to the garden. Seeing me grieved, 
he says : " It will be nothing; come, let us walk to the 
marsh." From the windows of our school-room I have 
often looked out at the marsh, which, according to the 
color of the pane one looks through, appears red, yel- 
low, violet, green, or blue. 


On that day the spring sunshine looked pale and 
sickly. We walked along the Souchez, whose gray 
waters, level with its banks, rolling slowly along, re- 
flected the grass, the dandelions, the soft gray sky, 
deepening to a pale blue toward the zenith. The first 
swallows streaked the air with dark lines, passing so 
close to the surface of the water, at times, as to wet in 
it the white feathers of their breasts. 

We took the green path that runs through the wood. 
Alders, willows, and aspens grew there together in con- 
fusion, looking like a violet haze, their budding leaves 
covering them like a shower of green dust. At inter- 
vals the trenches traversing the wood flowed into pools 
at our feet, bordered by straight and motionless reeds. 


Through their calm and limpid waters could be seen 
the mossy plants growing at the bottom, bearing beauti- 
ful, delicate white flowers, tinged with a rosy hue, and 
shaped like candelabra. 

At every step we took, some frog, golden or bronze- 
colored, would plunge into the morass. In the midst 
of the tender foliage, green and fiery dragon-flies brushed 
the rushes in their rapid flight ; and almost on the surface 
of the water swarmed a black mass, countless broods of 
young tadpoles, giddy with the spring sunshine, that 
kept up an incessant motion with their flame-like tails. 

My heart was heavy. 

I gathered handfuls of reeds to make gayolles (little 
cages) and branches of willow to turn into whistles, as 
boys do, after carefully peeling off the bark, having first 
beaten it for a long time with the handle of the. knife. 

At the edges of the trenches grew plants bearing 
tall purple tufts of bloom. 

My heart was heavy. 

My uncle did not speak. 

We entered the wood where white and pale-violet 
anemones trembled as we passed. 

Here my attention was attracted for the first time 
by those beautiful, fragrant yellow pompons that grow 
in tufts on the branches of a species of willow, which 
we call paquet. Swarms of bees buzzed around them, 
detaching from the flowers, as they rifled them of their 
sweets, a fragrant golden dust which clung to their feet, 
part of it rolling off like a diminutive avalanche of light. 
I threw away my reeds and whistles, and gathered a 
bunch of these brilliant yellow pompons, that suddenly 
brought into my sorrowful heart a gleam of joy. 

I gathered this bouquet to take it to Louis. It 
seemed to me that the pleasure it would give him would 
soon make him well again. 


My heart beat fast as we entered the house. But 
Louis did not seem to see my flowers, and I knew then 
that he was very ill. 

Then I crept away to a corner of the garden, and 
my tears flowed there in silence. 


In the mild April days nothing is more delightful to 
a child than to see the reawakening of plant life. 

The gardens especially rejoice the heart with inex- 
pressible gladness. On all sides the buds are bursting 
their shining sheaths, whence young leaves and blossoms 
emerge together, an indescribable faint red clothing 
their budding mysteries. 

A thousand plants are rising through the humid soil, 
happy to see again the light of day ; while others, more 
precocious, unfold their blossoms in all the freshness 
and splendor of a first blooming. 

The peonies have not yet done sending out their 
wine-colored shoots, curved like bishops' crosiers ; but 
the violets, the tulips, the pansies, the yellow narcissus, 
the imperial crowns in whose hearts tears are always 
welling, the fragrant pink and blue hyacinths and the 
primroses unfold their petals to the first white butter- 
flies ; and the sensitive peach-trees in the shelter of the 
brick wall open their rosy stars, continually surrounded 
by swarms of buzzing honey-bees. 

But what most delights my eyes to-day is the anem- 
ones that cluster around the shaft of the sun-dial. 

With what a wonderful intensity, with what an ex- 
quisite softness, gleam the purple, crimson, vermilion, or 



white velvet petals of these flowers, with their hearts of 
black satin ! 

But always haughty, they are more haughty than 
ever to-day. And why ? 

Because my brother is getting better. Would I have 
left him for the anemones if he were not at this moment 
resting in a sweet sleep ? 

Yesterday he played on the bed with a cross-bow. 
Every time he shot the arrow I picked it up and brought 
it back to him. 

This morning he got out of bed for a moment. He 
tried to walk on his thin legs, but they were still too 
weak. He has grown taller. 

Joy reigns in the house. 

My uncle plays on the horn up-stairs and I do not 
study, for it is a double holiday. It is Easter Sunday ! 


Joy reigns in the house. The bell tinkles. Joseph 
brings me an enormous Pdque, fragrant and wet with 
dew, gathered in the neighborhood, for we have none so 
large in our garden. 

Louis Memere and Francois Lhiver came in their 
Sunday clothes, carrying puny, wretched-looking Pdques 
in their hands. They will have to hold them very high 
indeed when they stand on the bench, as the cure passes 
with his holy-water sprinkler. They might, it is true, 
dip them in the holy-water font as they go out, but this 
is forbidden. 

The din-din gives the last peal. 

We follow the faithful, who are going to church : the 
men dressed in short jackets, the cases of their pipes 


sticking out of their pockets ; the women in long, black 
or lilac cloaks with hoods — those of the richer ones 
trimmed with fur. The poor women wear squares of 
black stuff on their heads, that fall down over their 
backs in folds, with a single little ornament embroidered 
on them in colored silk — a cross or a holy sacrament. 

We met some of our playmates proudly holding 
their Pdquesj the grown-up persons content themselves 
with a slender branch of box, held between the fingers. 

The church is overflowing with people, and is filled 
with the odor of a thousand branches. 

The cure makes the tour of the church with his 
holy-water sprinkler, and, as he passes, all the Pdques 
rise up like a thicket of box. 

On the steps of the communion-bench, which runs 
across the church, closing in the choir and the side 
altars with its hedge of sculptured foliage, a long line 
of pupils, some bold and mischievous, some devout as 
saints, press forward and kneel or sit down. 

There are among them heads of a great variety of 
shapes : some broad, some pointed, with ears sticking out 
more or less, and locks, for the most part of a reddish- 
blonde, sometimes fading into a yellowish-white, and so 
bristly that they remind one of the stubble in a field 
after harvest-time, and so rebellious that not even a 
thick coat of lard will make them lie straight. 

Occasionally, a face covered with freckles, with 
turned-up nose, long, white teeth, and blue eyes, spark- 
ling with mischief, will turn round. All this little crowd 
jostle one another with their elbows, move about rest- 
lessly and scratch themselves. 

The cure leaves the church, followed by the choris- 
ters and the choir-boys ; the door is closed in his face, 
and he must knock three times before it will be opened 
to him again. The ceremony amuses me. After the 


Ita missa est, the street boys, dodging the blows of the 
master, throng to the holy-water font, in which they 
dip their Pdques and raise a storm that sets the water in 
motion and scatters it over the flags. 

Three days afterward my brother Emile declares 
that, as he was with his nurse, he saw the bells passing 
through the sky on their long journey from Rome, 
while the creaking noise of the first rattles was sound- 
ing in the village. 


Bum, bem, bourn ! Bum, bem, bourn ! The bells are 
back again. Quick ! To the garden ! We arrived 
there out of breath, crazy with childish delight, running 
hither and thither, and so eager to see, that we can see 

At last we discover an egg — two, three, four ! How 
beautiful they are — red, violet, blue, and yellow ! They 
gleam like flowers among the green leaves. 

We keep running about from flower-bed to flower- 
bed, separating the leaves with our hands. 

Bum, bem, bourn ! We find eggs among the imperial 
crowns, among the lilies, the primroses, the sorrel, among 
the grass on the lawn, among the chervil, everywhere. 
Some, with their shells broken, have remained hanging 
on -the branches of the rose-bushes. 

How generously the bells have laid ! Bum, bem, 
bourn ! 




On the following day we assist at the solemn cere- 
monies of Easter. 

The church is resplendent in all its wealth of orna- 

The silver candlesticks, freed from their covers, glit- 
ter on the altar, among the paper hollyhocks. 

All the tapers are lighted, the largest of them de- 
tached from the walls to which they are ordinarily fast- 
ened, revealing to me (what is one to believe after this?) 
their simulated flames of painted tin, inside of which 
little candles are set. Stars of light blaze over the pict- 
ure of the principal altar, and set the Jewish soldiers, 
who are guarding the tomb, trembling, with their flick- 
ering flames. Above this the soft " Pieta " grows softer 
still, seen through clouds of smoke. 

I am sitting on the church-warden's bench, set against 
the great pillar near the choir. 

The singing begins, slow and squeaking ; I listen 
mechanically, absorbed in my dreams. My glances 
wander over the assemblage, that I look down upon 
from my seat, higher by two or three steps than the 
others. When they encounter a familiar face, my 
thoughts dwell upon it for a moment. The first I see 
is that of the terrible Mademoiselle Rosalie, with her 
hard glance, who pretends to be reading her prayer- 
book, but who is, in reality, watching her little flock. 
Oh, I am taking good care to behave well ! She may 
look at me as often as she will from the corner of her 
pitiless eye — she will have nothing to tell my uncle. 

Behind Mademoiselle Rosalie's little flock is the 
school of the larger girls. My thoughts often wander in 
that direction. I am certain to see her there in the front 



row ! Who ? Her — the girl I call in my thoughts my 
little bueresse (laundry-maid) because she resembles one 
of our laundresses. I love her, and I do not dare to ask 
any one what her name is. She has rosy cheeks, and 
she prays like an angel. 

Farther on the old women mutter their oremuses y and 
under the portal, growing indistinct in the shadow, men 
with a brick-red complexion and bald, white heads, 
shine like porcelain figures. There B£nesi prays, mak- 
ing pious grimaces. I allow myself to be gently lulled 
by the chants, accompanied by the soft ophicleide. 
With the harsh falsetto, the nasal base, and the gasping 
cries of the two singers, are mingled at times the dry 
and harsh notes, always out of tune, of the cur£, whose 
voice sounds like a trombone. My ears have grown ac- 
customed to this charivari. 

The cure, tall and thin, with his prominent nose and 
chin, and his curly black hair, has put on his resplendent 
gold-embroidered cape. 

Now and then he turns round brusquely, with an 
angry " Hush ! " addressed to the boys on the communion- 

The cure ! We are all afraid of him. At times his 
face is strangely convulsed. When he reads the sermon, 
one can hardly understand a word he says. The other 
day, however, he was very amiable. I went to the raisin- 
confession. This is what they call the confession of us 
children. I had taken a basketful of onions to the con- 
fessional for the cure, who, after he had heard my sins, 
gave me the customary package of raisins. 

My godmother had selected the finest onions, and he 
had seemed pleased with them. 

But they say he is possessed by the devil at times. 
We had a great fight a few days ago in the village on 
this account. People went about in the street asking 


one another if it was true that he was not anywhere to 
be found. They went to the church to look for him. 
Yes ; he was still there, standing before the altar with 
rigid form and convulsed face ; and he held on high 
the consecrated Host, which he could not carry to his 
mouth. This lasted three hours, the time spent in go- 
ing to Carvin to look for the dean, who came and broke 
the spell.* 

Among the three singers, two are worthy of mention, 
and are as different from each other in appearance as 
they are in voice. 

The one who sings in falsetto is old, ugly, and ca- 
daverous-looking. He sings only on great occasions, for 
he is an important personage. He wears a sort of wig 
of couch-grass ; his skin is rough, like the bark of an old 
tree, with a few black plaster patches here and there ; 
his eyebrows, resembling in form a circumflex accent, 
are set high above his eyes, whose lids stand out against 
the darkness of their sockets. The turned-up nose is 
also set high above the mouth, which is almost lipless ; 
add to these a long chin ; a white necktie ; gold eye- 
glasses and ear-rings ; a large collar ; a yellow waistcoat 
with brown stripes, and a long gray coat with little but- 

It makes me tremble to see how purple he grows 
when, between two fits of coughing, he throws back his 
head proudly and holds in his breath, to execute a trill 
in his harsh and childish voice. 

The other, the one whose nose sings the base, is the 
usual singer. 

Later, when my uncle bought an illustrated copy of 
B^ranger, we were to be surprised by finding there his 

* This overscrupulous priest, calmed by age, died a few years ago, 
having grown very tolerant and being greatly beloved by his people. 



exact portrait. By a stroke of genius Grandville had 
divined him. This does honor to them both. 

He had a square face, widening at the base, a very 
low forehead, thick wavy hair, straight eyebrows, almost 
touching the eyes, which were small, and whose blue 
color was intensified by the red of his complexion ; an 
immense mouth with thick lips, that, unable to close 
completely, protruded in fleshy curves ; a large head ; a 
fiat, drawn-in chest ; a hollow for a belly — all this sup- 
ported on knock-kneed legs, on which the trousers hung 
loosely, and which were terminated by ill-shaped feet 
with turned-in toes, that bent sidewise as he walked. 

He is as pretentious as the other, but more amiable. 
He never says "yes" or "no" ; he is one of those peo- 
ple who answer : " It is said " ; " You say so " ; " Such a 
thing has been known to happen " ; " And even if that 
were so " ; " But yet — " 

In his capacity of drunkard, he consumes a great 
deal of gin, and, in the numerous taverns at which he 
just looks in, he has never asked for a glass of liquor. 
He says : " I want something " ; "I have a sou here which 
I don't know what to do with " ; then, " I have another 
sou here." And they understand him, and he empties 
his glass without having compromised himself in words. 

One day, when he fell down in the choir, and was so 
drunk that he was unable to get up again, he said to the 
cure, who reprimanded him sharply, " Help me to my 
feet, and talk afterward." As a punishment for causing 
this scandal, he was forbidden to wear his surplice for a 
couple of months. 

Such is the man who sends forth in the choir dron- 
ing sounds in which the nose only takes part. Those 
strains are so monotonous, and the ophicleide accompa- 
nies them with such long-drawn, wailing notes, that I can 
scarcely keep my eyes open. 


And then this mass is so long. 

I grow weary like the captive sparrow who flies 
against the window-panes or perches on the little statues 
that project from the wall, forming tail-pieces under the 
arches of the ceiling. These statues have no longer any 
heads. The wicked people (as my grandmother has told 
me) cut them off during the Revolution. The old car- 
penter, P , was one of these. Therefore he inspires 

me with the same terror as do the Jews who are striking 
Jesus in the picture on the altar. 

The heavy odor of the incense makes me grow more 
and more sleepy, and I fall to dreaming, looking through 
half-closed lids at my little bueresse, who is so well-be- 
haved, and who prays with such simple fervor. 


After Easter was over, and Louis was well again, we 
resumed our usual occupations. Our little rooms ad- 
joined the room of my uncle, which was at the extreme 
end of the new part of the house. 

My uncle rose at five at all seasons of the year, and 
came to my room, which served him as a dressing-room, 
to shave. I fancy I can still hear the sound of the brush 
rubbing the soap into a lather, the gliding of the razor 
on the strop, and the rasping noise it made as he shaved 
his harsh beard. 

Soon he uttered his invariable cry, u Children, get 
up ! " and, rubbing our sleepy eyes, we would rise by the 
flickering light that cast dancing shadows on the bunches 
of daisies on the carpet. 

As soon as we were dressed we would go and sit 
down on our hair-cloth tabourets with the pretense of 



studying until half-past seven. How many times have I 
not wished to be ill that I might remain in bed ! Day 
dawned slowly. The light of the lamp grew paler, and 
its yellow rays flickered on our lips in the blue light of 

All the familiar sounds of rural existence began to be 
heard again, one by one : in the stables the cows lowed ; 
in the poultry-yards hens clucked. The doors of the 
barns creaked upon their hinges. 

My uncle threw open the blinds. 

When the dawn was further advanced and the sky 
grew rosier and brighter in the east, he would call us 
out to the balcony. He spoke to us of Nature and her 
charms. He repeated to us the following lines from 
some old opera : 

11 Quand on fut toujours vertueux 
On aime a voir lever l'aurore." 

Under the purple light of the sky the distant fields 
stretched far away, still wrapped in the mists soon to be 
dissipated by the glowing disk of the sun. 

Against this clear and brilliant background the old 
thatched roof of Jeannot stood out sharply like a square 
of black velvet, bordered at the top by dark-red flames, 
while in the gray light below the mist rose silently from 
the pool in the yard. 

All was so peaceful, so sweet ! 

At half-past seven we went down-stairs to breakfast, 
we dined at half-past twelve, and supped at about eight. 

Although the street and the village surroundings 
were forbidden to us, the house, the court-yard, the poul- 
try-yard, the sheds, the barns, and, above all, the gar- 
den, offered a sufficiently wide field for our prolonged 

It would take too long to describe our daily inter- 


course with all the creatures that inhabited these various 

Butterflies and birds, frogs and salamanders ; bees, 
drones, beetles with golden breasts ; cock-chafers that fell 
to the ground with the drops of dew from the rose-bush- 
es in the morning; shrew-mice with pointed nose, and 
eyes like grains of powder, moles and field-mice, snails, 
and you, lady-bugs, asparagus-bugs bearing shutters on 
your backs ; and you, beautiful red insects that dwell in 
the heart of the lily and utter a wail like the cry of a 
little puppy when one holds you close to the ear ; and that 
insect with the terrible jaws, which raises its tail mena- 
cingly, and which we have not the courage to touch ; and 
that other one, of the color of dust, that holds itself rigid 
when one puts it on its back, and then — tic-tac — jumps 
away suddenly. 

How many times have we been stung by the bees ! 
As for the drones, especially the red-tails, which are the 
strongest, we would catch them with our handkerchief, 
extract their sting with our nails, and make them draw 
little wagons to which we harness them by tying threads 
to their feet. 

Sometimes, to our amusement, they would fly away 
with their thread, borne down by the weight of which 
they would fall back again, when scarcely a foot from 
the ground, into the border of the grass-plot — poor prison- 
ers dragging along their chains ! 

At other times we would exhaust the patience of the 
necrophores by pushing still deeper into the ground the 
moles they had almost finished burying. 

How often have I listened for hours at a time to the 
grasshoppers chirping among the bushes, holding my 
breath, for the least noise silences them, and straining 
my ear, first on one side and then on another, with- 
out ever being able to discover the precise spot whence 


the cry proceeded. The same mystery surrounded the 
croaking of the little green frogs that frequented the 

But the toads filled me with horror, alike when, slimy 
and moist, they dragged themselves along the ground 
after a storm, and when, in dry weather, they moved 
about upon the earth like living clods, distinguishable 
from it only by the shining of their golden eyes. All 
these creatures whirred, fluttered, buzzed, whistled, sang; 
and, far away, far away, at the end of unexplored fields, 
was that mysterious noise which made our hearts quake 
with a terror full of charm, the cry of the " Beast," of the 
Torgeos, pan, pan, pan ! — pan, pan, pan ! 

There was also the sorrowful plaint of the fauvct 
whose nest we had robbed, that flew from tree to tree, 
uttering its wailing cry like a tormented spirit seeking 
rest from its anguish but finding none. 


When the animals failed us, we fell back upon the 
gardener. I have already spoken of Buisine, nicknamed 
Frise, a venerable old man of patriarchal aspect, with a 
fresh complexion, wondering blue eyes, and a forehead 
covered with a thick forest of wavy gray hair. 

When he was stooping over his work, we would often 
jump, two or three of us at a time, upon his back and 
cling to his blouse, kicking our feet mischievously. He 
would get angry. " He would go complain to our uncle." 
" We kept him from his work." "We were always pull- 
ing him to pieces." " We were unendurable." 

But, as his mild eyes were incapable of expressing 
anger, we only laughed at him. At last he would laugh 


himself, threatening us playfully with his pruning-hook ; 
or he would give us la barb — that is, he would rub his 
chin, with bristles sharp as the spikes on the cylinder of 
a bird organ, against our cheeks. And Frise gave us 
bird-organ music too, old ditties with never-ending re- 
frains. Among others he sang one called " Joseph sold 
by his Brethren," consisting of a hundred and one coup- 
lets, whose droning sounds he accompanied with the 
monotonous movement of his rake as he cleaned the 
paths, or the click of his pruning-shears as he clipped the 

branches : 

" O Joseph, mon fils aimable, 
Mon fils affable, 
Les betes t'ont devore." 

As my uncle had had the patience one day to listen 
to him till he had sung the ditty to the end and then 
praised his good memory, and told him that such was 
really the history of Joseph, Frise, delighted with the 
compliment, sought every opportunity to repeat his song, 
and when he had succeeded in making my uncle listen 
to a few verses, he would say gravely, " You know, M. 
Breton, that is history." 

This phrase amused us, and he made use of it to 
plague little Emile, who would grow as angry as a young 
sparrow, when we followed him about, droning the ditty 
into his ears ; and when he would turn round, furious 
and shoot arrows at us, happily harmless ones, from his 
little bow, we would say to him mockingly, " You see, 
M. Breton, that is history." 

We amused ourselves also with the gardener, by hid- 
ing his tools, of which he was very fond, and the handles 
of which his rough hands had polished and worn, or his 
large cap, which exhaled a peculiar odor. 

Many years later it happened that my father brought 
home from one of his journeys a pineapple, a fruit until 


then unknown to us. When he was cutting it, a strange 
perfume diffused itself through the room, and my father, 
who was very fond of good eating, made us notice how 
exquisite the odor was. Yes, the perfume was exquisite, 
the more so as it awakened in us a vague recollection. 
Somewhere we had smelled something like it. But what, 
and where ? 

We were all trying to remember, when Emile, his 
face lighting up, suddenly cried, " Frise's cap ! " Yes, it 
was indeed that. 

We had an affection for one corner of the garden es- 
pecially — the dampest and the least clean. It was there 
that the hole had been dug into which Frise threw weeds, 
useless plants, and dead vegetables, after their seeds had 
been gathered. 

A brick wall, low enough to look over, surrounded 
the hole ; from this wall we could see over the whole 
garden, with its rows of painted posts surmounted by 
white balls. Oh, what a lovely night butterfly I dis- 
covered one morning, asleep on the damp moss that 
covered this heap ! How brightly it gleamed, with its 
wings of black velvet, streaked with yellow, and its purple 
back, and its under wings of a superb red, dotted with 
brown spots ! 

From the top of this wall we could see the Chateau 
de Courrieres, the former dwelling-place of the lords of 
the village, the last of whom, before the Revolution, was 
the Baron de St. Victor. Of this chateau, built in the 
style of Louis XV, the ugly old man we have seen on 
Easter Sunday, standing at the music-desk in the choir, 
had been at one time the steward. My father, who 
had been early left an orphan, had been confided to the 
care of this man, and had spent part of his childhood at 
the chateau. He did not preserve a very agreeable rec- 
ollection of it. 


It happened one day that they locked him into a 
room, and as he grew impatient at the length of his cap- 
tivity, my father, at the risk of breaking his neck, escaped 
from his prison by lowering himself to the ground by his 
hands, grasping the moldings of the facade, and then 
ran and hid himself in the depths of a wood, where he 
remained for three days, a playmate supplying him with 

Long abandoned, this silent chateau, this prison of my 
father, with its barred windows, its deserted steps, over- 
grown with thistles ; its tall chimneys, from which smoke 
never issued ; its dilapidated roof, from which the tiles 
were being carried away one by one by the wind, was 
associated much more closely in my mind with the tales 
heard from my companions than with the realities of 
daily life. It affected my imagination powerfully. Those 
closed shutters, I thought, must conceal behind them 
some strange mystery. 

This Specter of the Past stood there silent in the 
midst of the golden harvests of the old park surrounded 
by its moat. It was inhabited now only by the owls, 
but I could never disassociate from it, in my thoughts, 
the image of the ugly tyrant who had once inhabited it. 

For the most part, then, our hours of recreation were 
passed in the garden, which we quitted only when night 

Ah ! what happy summer evenings I have spent 
there ! 

Hazy shadows hung in every corner, while the tops 
of the pear-trees, trimmed in the form of a distaff, were 
gilded by the splendors of the setting sun. A light 
breeze sprang up from time to time, setting in motion 
the warm vapors that hung heavy over the earth. 

The sky was darkened by clouds of buzzing insects 
and shadowy gleams of red light that floated away, far 



into the depths of space, where the white stars were ap- 
pearing one by one. 

Amid the sound of fluttering wings and rustling 
leaves, the sparrows came, one by one, to hide them- 
selves under the leafy garlands that crowned the gar- 
den wall. 

At times the night-moth darted past, swift as an ar- 
row, making the drowsy silence quiver. Other moths 
circled giddily around clumps of volubilis-pdlis. 

The twilight lent a sweet and peaceful charm to all 
these objects, lighted up only here and there by a ray of 
dying light. Nature sank gently among the gathering 
shadows into a sleep that was disturbed from time to 
time by the noise made by some nocturnal prowler. A 
pure and intense poetic spell hung over everything. 


My father, however, was laying out a second gar- 
den, which was to be three or four times as large as the 
other, and which, as we children thought, was going to 
be a marvel. 

The site chosen for it was on the banks of the 
Souchez, in the lower marsh, six or seven minutes' walk 
distant from the house. 

We spent there part of our hours of recreation, and 
I assure you that nothing could have amused us more 
than to see all those men, almost naked, covered with 
mud, their trousers tucked half-way up the thigh, dig- 
ging hollows and raising hills, passing and repassing, 
with their muddy barrows over the planks that, seesaw- 
like, would sometimes rise up into the air and then fall 
noisily down again. 


My father had laid out the plans for the garden, 
making the most of the shrubs that grew in it, and util- 
izing the ponds and trenches. He planned various sur- 
prises. For instance, the gate was to open into a sim- 
ple kitchen-garden, terminating in an ordinary orchard. 
But, arriving there, you found yourself suddenly before 
a fountain surrounded by thuyas, laburnums, and lilacs, 
whose jet, which rose from a natural spring, fell with a 
delightful murmur into the basin, the chosen haunt of 
the frogs. 

They had found this spring scarcely two feet under- 
ground without any difficulty, while a chatelaine of the 
neighborhood had spent fabulous sums in fruitless bor- 
ing. Providence must have guided them.* 

Then there were to be bridges spanning the trench- 
es ; three little ponds starred with water-lilies, where the 
gold-fish leaped about, flashing in the sunlight ; leafy 
bowers for archery, the cross-bow, and bowls ; a pavil- 
ion ; circular lawns bordered with rose-bushes ; a dark 
grove with a labyrinthine walk ; a little bathing-house 
with a terrace ; and another fountain, this latter artificial. 

On the other side of the Souchez was to be a larger 
pond, bordered by sunflowers, hollyhocks, and various 
tall, broad-leaved plants bearing large flowers, in which 
was to be a wooded island, in the shape of a pear, the 
most retired spot of the garden, and to be reached by a 
small boat. 

Thanks to the former plantations, which had been 
preserved, and to the fertility of the soil, this garden 
soon became what was in those days called an enchant- 
ing retreat. 

* These borings were not altogether useless, since they resulted 
in the discovery of veins of coal, the beginning of the coal-beds of 



My uncle was passionately fond of it, and spent 
there a part of every day. 

During the Ducasse * lovers walked in it in the morn- 
ing, as if it were a public garden. Sometimes my father 
would hire musicians who played on the platform of the 
bathing- pavilion, while couples danced on the grass, as 
they do in the engravings, after Teniers, which adorn 
my godfather's parlor. What bursts of laughter, what 
songs, and what cries of joy, to which a thousand birds, 
concealed among the branches, responded ! What boat- 
ing excursions, what careless, happy hours ! 

Some townspeople of Lille, old friends of my uncle, 
shaking off for a time the cares of their somber dwell- 
ings, would occasionally visit us with their wives, and 
intoxicate themselves with the delights of country life, 
the greenery, and the summer sunshine, and sport like 
children among the flowers, beside themselves with 

On the pond the boatmen would make the boat rock 
in order to frighten " the ladies," who would utter cries 
of terror, followed by the delicate pleasantries of the 

One day, one of these citizens of Lille, a man of ma- 
ture age, married to a young wife, affected by the gen- 
eral gayety, behaved so well on the boat that he lost his 
balance and fell into the water. They dragged him out, 
covered with aquatic plants that clung to his clothes, 
from whieh the water poured in a stream, and looking 
very serious. Madame, seized with a violent attack of 
hysterics, heaped abuse upon him, interrupted from 
time to time by her spasms. They went to the house 
for dry clothes, while the gentleman, enveloped in a rug, 
which he wore like a toga, walked about in the sunshine 

* A local festival. 


drying himself and, madame being appeased, declaim- 
ing, " Of him, the greatest Roman of them all," etc. 

I remember, too, those delightful summer evenings, 
when we would linger after nightfall with my uncle on 
the terrace of the bathing-pavilion, to sing nocturnes in 
the midst of the silence and the solitude, to the accom- 
paniment of the croaking of the frogs : 

" Berger, cours a la belle 
Jurer flamme £ternelle 
L'etoile du soir luit !" 

And there, indeed, above the dark foliage of the 
wood, the evening star was shining. 

The Carperie enjoyed the distinguished privilege of 

being sung in pompous alexandrines. The Abbe* D , 

the vicar of Courrieres, wrote in honor of it a poem con- 
sisting of five or six cantos. 

This ecclesiastic, a devotee of the Muses and of the 
pleasures of the table, in order to embellish our garden, 
drew upon his mythological reminiscences; and Flora, 
Pomona, Ceres, the nymphs, the satyrs, the naiads, and 
innumerable zephyrs, came to people, in his verses, our 
parterres, our orchards, our ponds, and our groves. 

Venus herself did not disdain to come down and 
take up her abode on the island of Cytherea, as the 
little pear-shaped, wooded island emerging from the 
bosom of our pond was called. Naturally he made 
this island the abode of a hermit. 

This hermit was none other than my uncle, probably 
represented by the fancy of the poet under the guise of 
an all-powerful Jupiter. And, indeed, the title of hermit 
suited him very well ; for, although he lived only for 
others, he had lived almost always alone. 

As for me, I confess I never discovered any mytho- 
logical deity in the Carperie, not even the fairies, who 


6 9 

were the most familiar to us; but I saw there one day, 
the idiot Benesi, who, with his shirt over his coat, was 
singing vesper hymns in the laburnum bower, that he 
doubtless took for an oratory. 

Thousands of yellow blossoms hung in clusters from 
the leafy trellis, and the sunlight, filtering through the 
branches, lighted them up here and there in the midst 
of the surrounding shadow, making them look like the 
lights in a chapel. 


About this time great preparations were going on at 
our house. Fremy washed and revarnished his paint- 
ings ; Joseph hurried to pluck the smallest blade of 
grass that showed itself among the pebbles in the yard ; 
Phillipine rubbed, scrubbed, and polished, and, when 
she was not doing this, danced on her waxing-brush 
over the floors, making them shine like a mirror. 

Everybody was in a hurry. 

The gardener's rake moved about so quickly in the 
walks that " Joseph and his Brethren " passed from an 
andante to an allegro. (We had begun music.) 

One thought filled the mind of everybody. 

Soon cries of distress from the chickens, the ducks, 
and the turkeys that were being killed, resounded in the 
back yard. 

Articles hitherto unknown there made their appear- 
ance in the house. 

All this delighted me greatly, the more so as, in the 
midst of the feverish agitation that prevailed, we were 
able to neglect our studies with impunity. 

In brief, we were expecting a visit from one of the 



greatest noblemen of the kingdom, the Duke of Dur- 
fort de Duras. 

I knew him from his portrait, painted in the costume 
of a peer of France, that formed a companion piece to 
the portrait of Charles X. 

He was represented in it as young, dignified, and 

When the long-expected day arrived, every house 
was hung with garlands of leaves and flowers. Groups 
gathered at every corner. We were all at our front 
door, which stood wide open. 

At last the noise of wheels was heard at the bend of 
the road, which was enveloped in a cloud of dust ; men 
and women rushed forward toward a post-chaise drawn 
by four horses that came galloping up the street, amid 
the cries of " Vive monseigneur ! " 

The postilions wore red trousers, high boots, braid- 
ed jackets, and oil-cloth-covered caps. I thought them 
magnificent. But I was greatly disappointed when I 
saw the duke, who, alas ! bore scarcely any resemblance 
to his portrait. 

He descended from the chaise with the help of a 
chair which they brought him. He looked to me old ; 
his cheeks were flabby, his complexion highly colored, 
his nose too big. He had a mole on the left temple, I 
think it was, and wore a cloth cap over a silk one, from 
beneath which straggled a few white hairs. 

I, who had expected regal magnificence, stood there, 
my eyes wide open with amazement, to see an old man 
differing so little from other old men. 

His face was lighted up, however, by a look of benev- 

He embraced us affectionately and made inquiries, 
not only concerning our health, but our little occu- 
pations. He even went into the kitchen in the after- 



noon, and seated himself in the corner of the Louis 
Quinze fireplace, beside my grandmother, with whom 
he chatted for a long time. 

I recollect that after dinner my uncle spoke to him 
of his ancestors, of some of his illustrious friends, and 
of the romances of the duchess, his first wife. 

The duke, charmed to find so lettered a man and 
one who was so well acquainted with his history among 
country people, complimented him on his knowledge in 
courteous and even friendly terms. 

As for us, we soon found a comrade in the person of 
his valet, M. Michel, a Pole, a man about forty years 
old, very quick in his movements and who stuttered 
frightfully, which at times made him appear in a very 
comical light. 

He was very tall (at least six feet high). I have 
heard my father say that he carried his devotion to his 
master so far as to add, out of his own pocket, to the 
gratuities of which the latter made him the disburser. 
Where do we see a valet now who would sacrifice his 
savings to protect a great nobleman's reputation ? 

Michel loved children, and after the first day w r e 
amused ourselves by plaguing him as if he were of no 
greater consequence than Frise' himself. 

St John's day arrived. 

At this time all the women and young girls assemble 
at the cross-roads of the village and dance and sing 
roundelays in the twilight, often prolonging these fes- 
tivities far into the night. 

Those who lived in our street came to sing under 
the windows of the duke, who had retired early. He 
slept on a mattress, which was not horizontal, but sloped 
a little toward the feet, a peculiarity that had seemed to 
me odd. 

These rounds and village lays at first amused the 



duke, but at the end of a quarter of an hour he was 
tired of them. Not wishing to offend these villagers, 
however, who devoted themselves so heartily to the task 
of amusing him, he sent Michel to them, after he had 
thanked them, giving him orders to take them to the 
village inn and offer them refreshments. 

The jovial valet, according to his custom, supple- 
mented his master's generosity with attentions of his 
own ; not content with regaling the women at the inn, 
he took them from wine-shop to wine-shop, recruiting 
their numbers on the way by members of other bands, 
so that these feminine heads soon became heated with 
wine, and by midnight the excited troop were running 
through the streets of Courrieres, crying, " Vive Mon- 
sieur Michel ! Vive Monsieur de Duras ! " 

This was not the duke's only visit to Courrieres. 
He came a second time, accompanied by the duchess, a 
tall Spanish woman with long features, who wore a little 
green veil. We saw again our friend Michel. We neg- 
lected him a little, however, for the femme de chambre 
of the duchess, a young and pretty brunette with lively 
manners, who rolled us on the grass of the lawn, kissed 
us, and tickled us, much to our delight. And when we 
shot our arrows into the air she would cry, with a look 
of surprise, " See, how high ! " There was in the neigh- 
borhood a company of little archers, whose ages ranged 
from ten to fifteen, whose berceau (target) was set up at 
the end of a dry ditch that bordered the road leading 
to the village. 

The joyous exclamations of these boys reached us 
in our house, and attracted the attention of the great 
lady, who, wishing to see the sport near by, caused her- 
self to be carried in a chair to the edge of the ditch. 
The sport, interrupted for an instant, began again gayly. 
It occurred to the duchess to give two sous to the boy 



who should succeed in hitting the red circle around the 
bull's-eye. This redoubled the ardor of the contestants, 
who accomplished prodigies of skill. 

A little sick boy, muffled up to the eyes in a cap of 
woolen cloth, was an object of special interest. 

The shots which hit the circle, however, became so 
frequent that they were at last rewarded by only one 

This was another piece of economy which Michel 
would not have practiced. 


Ideas present themselves to the mind of the child 
under the form of images. Before we reason, we im- 
agine. Imagination ! I know not why it is that this 
marvelous faculty, instead of becoming stronger as the 
reasoning powers develop, declines with their growth. 
They stifle it, and this is to be greatly regretted. 

There is nothing more delightful than to yield one's 
self up to this creative power, which can evoke to being, 
under our closed eyelids, so many strange and beautiful 
forms, impalpable and yet plain to the inner sight, and 
illuminated, as it were, by supernatural splendors. 

How I longed for the moment when, cuddled in my 
warm bed, the light extinguished, I prepared to witness 
this diurnal spectacle. 

At first pale twilight gleams, mingled with dark, 
floating shadows, moved before my closed eyes, eddying 
in a formless chaos — an image of creation, where points 
of light, like stars, soon sparkled. 

Then forms began to take shape, massed themselves 
together, gradually grew clearer and then changed into 


other forms ; all this absolutely without effort of the will 
on my part, and accompanied by ever-new surprises. 

The pictures followed one another, beautiful, fan- 
tastic, wild, or horrible, according to the mood I was in. 

I looked at them all with curiosity and delight, and 
without fear. 

At times I saw wide plains the color of blood, wrapped 
in shadow, where hideous serpents, stiff as posts, crawled 
with a jerking movement that kept time to the beating 
of my heart. And then all this grew luminous ; the ser- 
pents stretched themselves out into garlands of flowers ; 
marvelous birds flew back and forth ; the sails of wind- 
mills turned round and round against the background 
of the sky, and then all soared upward in a dizzy whirl, 
in which I felt myself borne, with my bed, dazzled and 
intoxicated. Oh, how beautiful it all was ! 

This picture would vanish. Then I saw the sea as I 
had heard it described, like an immense piece of cloth, 
furling and unfurling itself. I felt myself caught up and 
rocked delightfully in its folds. Then it was the sky ; 
nothing was to be seen but the sky, hung with glorious 
golden clouds on which walked St. Nicholas, St. Cath- 
arine, the Virgin, and the infant Jesus, and where hov- 
ered groups of joyous, blue-winged angels. 

At other times I saw dark rooms filled with strange 
implements like those in our barn, and vast kitchens 
where burned immense fires, before which the devil 
turned the spit. Or, the room would be filled with 
showers of many-colored rockets, like those I have since 
seen in displays of fire-works. 

At times I saw animated toys, marching by them- 
selves in procession — guns, Punch-and-Judies, Pan- 
flutes, trumpets ; and also sights that were more natural, 
the real procession in which the cure, the choir-singers, 
Mademoiselle Rosalie, and Benesi took part, One day 


— oh, joy ! — my mother rose suddenly before me and 
clasped me in her arms. 

And, as I have said before, all these pictures ap- 
peared before me without effort of the will on my part, 
really visible to the inner sight, and not those vague im- 
ages that later haunt the brain — images so slow to take 
the final shapes in which we clothe them. 

I think many children possess this gift of inner sight. 
My brothers and I described these visions to one anoth- 
er, sometimes from one room to another at the moment 
of their appearance. 


My uncle had a great affection for Lille, where he 
had spent the best part of his youth. 

He often spoke to us of that city, of its theatre, its 
concerts, its houses with their richly decorated rooms 
and resplendent windows. 

I could form to myself no idea of all this, and in my 
nocturnal visions Lille appeared to me like a vague 
splendor, a crowd of people and of carriages with fine 
postilions and, heaped on the roofs of houses dazzlingly 
white and of immense size, gold and precious stones like 
those of fairy-land. These fantastic images haunted me 
particularly on the night preceding our journey to Lille. 

We set out early in the morning, my uncle, Louis, 
and I. We were to take the Carvin- Lille coach, a line 
established by Maximilian Robespierre, a member of the 
family of the Robespierre of the Convention, who was a 
native of Carvin.* 

* On seeing a cast of the tribune, later, I was struck by its re- 
semblance to the Robespierre I knew. 


The coach was already full, which did not prevent 
them, however, not only from crowding all three of us 
into it, but from heaping up there besides the numerous 
packages which the driver, Maximilian himself, took up 
on the way. And yet there are still people who exe- 
crate railroads. 

It took us three hours and a half to travel five leagues, 
for Maximilian practiced the worship of the Genevan god 
and made frequent libations at his shrine. The thought 
of the wonders I was going to see, however, made me 
bear this long torture with patience. 

At last we arrived at Lille. 

The Porte-de-Paris, with its massive architecture, in 
the style of Louis XIV, impressed me somewhat. 

I was also struck by the immense number of wind- 
mills, that, like a cloud of gigantic cock-chafers, agitated 
their wings in the air. But how describe what I felt, 
when, having reached the inn (Moulin de FArbrisseau) 
where the coach stopped, after having stretched our- 
selves and recovered to some extent from the effects of 
the cramped position we had maintained in the coach 
(one may fancy the state in which people must be who 
for three leagues had not been able to move even so 
much as the tip of their fingers) — when, I say, I could 
contemplate at my ease the promised marvels ! 

There they are, the houses of my dreams, those 
yellow houses, grimy and hideous. 

Behind those mean-looking fronts it is that stream 
the splendors of gilded salo?is. 

We were given no opportunity, however, on this oc- 
casion, of seeing these gilded salons. In the house at 
which we stopped we were shov/n into a large room 
filled with ugly objects — high porcelain stoves, and par- 
cels of various shapes and sizes. 

There gentlemen with black or red side-whiskers 



glanced up at us and then went on with their writing. 
Then one of them, his quill pen sticking behind his ear, 
went to look for the landlord. The latter came to us 
with noisy protestations of friendship ; led us through 
long passages full of windows, but none the less dark 
on that account ; and showed us, at the end of a little 
court, which the sun never visited, into a pretty pavilion 
built in a style of architecture like that of the little tem- 
ple on the roof of our pigeon-house, and my uncle and 
his companion chatted and laughed incessantly, recall- 
ing a thousand past events in which we had had no 
part, while we remained there yawning, our eyes fixed 
alternately on an alabaster clock and a porcelain figure 
of Napoleon, who from the column on which he stood 
directed an imaginary battle. 

And when we came out my uncle said to us, •' There 
is a happy man, who has plenty of money." 

In the hotel at which we put up we found the same 
dark passages, the same dark and narrow yard, the 
same commonplace porcelain ornaments. And every- 
where the same thing was repeated ; and my uncle, at 
every new sight, would nod his head with an expression 
which seemed to say, " Well, my child, what do you 
think of that? " And, in order not to offend him, of 
course we were obliged to pretend to admire every- 

We dined at the house of some friends, where, at 
least, we found children ; but, just as we thought we were 
going to be rewarded for our past disappointments by 
some entertaining game, we discovered that we were 
among good boys, who shortly opened their History of 
France, where we were obliged to look at endless like- 
nesses of the Merovingians in the traditional oval. And, 
indeed, whenever those pale city-bred boys chanced to 
move their elbows a little too quickly, their mother, with 



glare and severe glance, would immediately reprimand 
them for it. 

This gave me enough of the Merovingians ! 

But I must bear witness to the prodigious learning of 
these babies, beside whom we felt ourselves to be only 
village donkeys. 

After the champagne we were allowed to stretch 
ourselves a little in the low kitchen where these young 
gentlemen kept their playthings. 

Oh ! what a gloomy room — with its dark windows, 
through which the light scarcely ever penetrated — light 
that came down from an invisible sky between walls 
of grimy brick, at whose feet a narrow stream dragged 
along its muddy waters in shiny eddies formed by the 
heaps of broken bottles and bits of crockery and other 
countless objects that encumbered its bed ! 

At night everything wore a different aspect. The 
city was then lighted up, and I experienced a genuine 
pleasure in the long walk we took between the rows of 
booths erected for the fair in the great square. A pleas- 
ant odor of spice-cake, oranges, and perfumery mingled, 
diffused itself through these improvised walks that re- 
sounded with the cries of the venders. How many 
beautiful objects were there displayed, transfigured in 
the floods of light which the lamps and the candles 
shed around in profusion : ingenious toys, tempting 
bonbons, weapons, carved walking - sticks, knives of 
every shape, curious snuff-boxes, and magnificent gilded 
clocks, with figures of pretty shepherdesses or naked 
savages ! 

I saw there also strange fruits which a Turk, like one 
of those in the Magasin Pitioresque (the new periodical 
which amused us so greatly), was selling. 

What was my surprise to see this Turk shake hands 
with my uncle and enter into friendly conversation with 



him ! How proud I was of having an uncle who was on 
such familiar terms with a Turk ! 

I was not so proud of my brother Louis though, who, 
notwithstanding my repeated remonstrances, hobbled 
along in full view of everybody, the poor boy having 
burned his foot a few days before by upsetting the 
coffee-pot as it stood on the kitchen fire. 

He had begged so hard to be taken with us that my 
uncle had brought him, a slipper covering his burned 
foot. I felt on this account a foolish mortification. 

We visited the museum. 

I thought all those large paintings, dark and smoky- 
looking, very fine indeed, but, I must confess, not very 
amusing. Louis frankly avowed that he preferred the 
cabinet of natural history, where were a large whale and 
some pretty birds of various colors. I would have been 
of his opinion also had this not been unworthy the dig- 
nity of a future painter. 

As yet Fremy was more within my comprehension 
than Rubens. Happily, I was able to admire sincerely 
a little picture of the Flemish school, in which two old 
men were represented reading in a large book by the 
light of a lamp. The light of this lamp was perfect. 
The slender flame passed so naturally from blue to yel- 
low, and then to a smoky red. The only fault was, that 
the light cast on the figures was too red. 

In the evening my uncle took us to the theatre, 
where they were playing The Dumb Girl of Portici. We 
were the first of the audience to arrive. The hall was 
still empty, and was dimly illuminated by the bluish 
light that came from the ceiling. Then they lowered 
the chandelier, which an attendant turned round, light- 
ing each of the lamps in succession. 

Soon the hall was brilliant with light, but its splendor 
fell far short of that of my nocturnal visions. The orches- 


tra played a prelude. From time to time fingers were 
thrust through little holes in the curtain, through which, 
at other times, eyes shone. I was again made proud by 
seeing my uncle make a friendly gesture to the first horn, 
his old teacher, and an incomparable musician, whose face 
bore so strong a likeness to that of the chrysalis of the 
butterfly known as Vulcan that, as his name was Laoust, 
we called those chrysalids ever after Monsieur Laousts. 

The opera began, but there was too much singing in 
it. I could not understand a word. I amused myself 
by looking at the costumes and the decorations of the 

In the last act 1 saw the Vesuvius of our school- 
room represented on the stage. Here a new disillusion 
awaited me. I discovered immediately the cords fast- 
ened to the stones used in the eruption, and then the 
dumb girl threw herself, without any attempt at decep- 
tion, not into the crater, but beside it. 

As for my uncle, he bounded from his seat at every 
moment, with such bursts of enthusiasm as to draw upon 
him the ridicule of our neighbors. 


" Le reverrai-je, enfant qui traversas mon reve, 
Le temps que met l'etoile a passer dans la nuit ! . . . 
C'etait un jour de mai tranquille ou pour tout bruit 
Aux branches ou croyait ouie monter la seve." 

When she arrived with her father it seemed as if a 
ray of paradise had entered the house, so heavenly was 
the light that shone in her blue eyes ; so bright was her 
golden hair, and so dazzling the rosy whiteness of her 


Whence did she come ? Where has she gone ? I 
know not. Nothing remains in my memory but the 
name of her father — vague, also, Dubois, a name so 
common that it can scarcely be said to indicate any par- 
ticular individual. And whence came the charm that 
attracted us all the moment we saw her, at the same 
time that it kept us at a distance, for from the very be- 
ginning we were bashful and shy in her presence ? 

Other little girls did not produce this effect upon us. 
Why did we forget our toys ? I can see her now, walk- 
ing down along the garden, without once turning round 
to look at us. 

We watched her from a distance in silence. Then, 
with assumed boldness, we jostled each other noisily, 
laughing loudly to attract her attention. We could not 
think how to make the first advances. 

But in the evening, before we were put to bed, when 
godmother had arrayed her in her little muslin night- 
dress, and imprisoned her curls under a cap, she ap- 
peared to us more like one of ourselves, and we kissed 
her and I fell in love with her at once. 

And the following day ! Oh, what a happy day it 
was, brightened by her presence ! How joyously the 
rosy light played on the ceiling in my room when I 
opened my eyes in the morning — rosy as the little girl's 
frock ! 

At dinner they put her chair beside mine. 

From that moment we were friends. 

We shared each other's dessert. We had drunk some 
champagne and our tongues were loosened. Oh, there 
was no more timidity after that ! 

She followed us out on the lawn. There we sported 
like mad creatures, turning around with outstretched 
arms like windmills, until we grew dizzy and fell, one on 
top of another, on the grass. We got up again stagger- 


ing. The earth seemed to rise with us, then sink away 
from under our feet. The walls of the garden con- 
tinued to turn around. Blissful intoxication ! And she 
cried and laughed at the same time. Her teeth and her 
eyes glistened with an adorable charm. 

When we had calmed down a little, we showed her 
the sights of the poultry-yard, where the magnificent 
peacock (a recent arrival also) strutted about proudly 
in the sunshine, spreading out its tail starred with eyes 
like a fan. 

My uncle calls us. They are going to the carperie. 
"And what is the carperie $" "You shall see." We 
set out. We walk across the fields. I point out to her 
the corn, the oats, the colzas, the pinks — for of all this 
the little town-bred girl knew nothing. We pass the 
chateau, walking by the side of its dry moat, where this- 
tles, nettles, and dandelions are growing. At last we 
reach the Carperie, verdant and blooming with flowers. 
We bury ourselves in the tall grass in the orchard, where 
she is lost to sight among the daisies. 

The murmur of the fountain attracts us. The green 
frogs hop in the basin where the clean water bubbles in 
the sunshine, for the apparatus which sends the jet up- 
ward is not placed directly over the opening of the spring. 
We walk among the clumps of rose-bushes, meadow-sweet, 
and snow-balls, and we watch the carps sporting in the 
ponds. My father sets playing the fountain of the bath- 
ing-pavilion, the one that rises so high in the air — a 
fresh delight for my little friend. 

Cries are heard at the grating, where a dozen of our 
little playfellows ask permission to enter. I open the 
gate for them, and we get up a party of hide-and-seek. 
We run into the dark woods, where the sun, now near 
his decline, darts his fiery arrows almost horizontally 
through the branches. We hide in all sorts of places, 



among the branches of the leafy nut-trees ; in the sheds 
where are kept the cross-bows and archery sets ; among 
the rose-bushes. There we are silent ; we keep quite 
still, scarcely daring to breathe when we hear the seekers 
passing by. Oh, how delightful it was to be hidden 
there so safely with a single companion, and to look at 
each other with wide-open eyes, a little frightened at 
the thought of being caught. 

We are discovered. We jump about like goats, ut- 
tering crazy shouts, and flights of birds, frightened at 
the sound, fly away, fluttering their wings, to hide among 
the branches. 

In the play she and I had remained for a long time 
undiscovered behind the laburnum-bower, where I had 
heard Benesi a little while before singing his vesper 
hymns. In this retreat we lay crouched among the grass, 
whose intense green made her cheeks, rosy with childish 
excitement, seem redder by contrast. Here we were 
completely hidden from view by the luxuriant foliage. 
Beside us was a trench whose clear, still waters abounded 
with tangled masses of vegetation. Before us, on the 
opposite bank, large aquatic plants, with broad serrated 
leaves of a pale-green color, displayed their flowers, also 
of a pale green, that sprang from long, pointed sheaths. 
Tall umbelliferous plants, a species of vegetation ex- 
traordinarily long-li ed and of exquisite delicacy, raised 
high their parasol-like flowers. 

There we were, our hearts palpitating in the midst 
of this exuberance of life. As she had been running, 
her face was suffused with a light moisture. I could 
hear the beating of her heart. Whenever the danger of 
being discovered appeared most imminent, we would 
draw more closely together. 

We looked at each other with frightened glances, in 
which there was a mixture of tenderness. 

8 4 


No ; we had not been discovered ! The steps and 
the voices withdrew, then returned. I can not tell how 
long this delightful silence lasted. 

Suddenly, with a quick gesture she pointed out to 
me, close beside the water, not two steps away, and half 
hidden among the leaves, a bird's nest — a bird's nest 
made of moss and twigs gracefully curved. The mother, 
with half-spread wings and little nervous movements, 
protecting with her body her brood of fledglings, watched 
us with eyes fixed with terror. 

My little friend, trembling with delight, gets up and 
leans over to obtain a better view, but her movement 
has betrayed us. 

The mad band run toward us, shouting : " Here they 
are ! here they are ! " and we spring from our hiding- 
place, while the bird darts away among the reeds, utter- 
ing little cries of terror. 


She has gone — leaving an indescribably dreary void 
behind her. Gone — taking with her the brightest rays 
of the sun, that now shines with a pale and melancholy 
light on the drooping petals of the flowers. Even little 
Emile cried this morning, for, for the past two days we 
have all been under her spell, taking pleasure in nothing 
in which she had no part. 

We must now go back to our lessons and our copy- 
books, sitting on those odious hair-cloth tabourets and be 
content, for sole amusement, to watch Thasie's chickens 
scratching in the dung-hill, and her pig wallowing in the 

Happily, since the planting of the Carperie> my 



uncle, who is often called in that direction, makes fre- 
quent absences, and we are left much more to ourselves 
than formerly. 

About ten in the morning, after he has heard our les- 
sons and mended our pens, he puts on his yellow cap, 
ornamented with spiral stripes, and goes down-stairs. 
We can hear him in the yard giving some directions to 
Joseph or Phillipine, then he walks across the garden 
with firm and rapid steps. 

We watch him with patient glance through the panes 
of colored glass to which our foreheads are already 
pressed. At the end of the walk, that terminates in a 
clematis-bower, he opens the door which leads out into 
the fields and disappears from our sight. 

The wall hides him from view for a minute or two. 
Then we see again the yellow cap make its appearance, 
and move swiftly along among the corn and oats beside 
the moat of the chateau. 

This is the signal of release. 

Emile, who is only just learning his letters, is the 
first to run away. Louis and I, who have our copies to 
write, hurriedly scrawl a few words for form's sake, 
and then blunt the points of our pens which refuse to 
write, so of course we can not go on. 

Louis darts off in his turn. And I remain behind to 
give myself up to the fascinating occupation of rummag- 
ing in forbidden corners. 

Under the book-case there are five or six drawers, 
which it would be delightful to rummage. There are there 
strange-looking instruments in leathern boxes ; rolls of 
maps; medals; parchments with red waxen seals; shells; 
spy-glasses ; lenses ; and, what interests me more than all 
the rest, color-boxes for painting in water colors, and even 
bladders containing oil-colors ; flasks of varnish with an 
odor more exquisite than that of flowers; and, finally, 


specimens of lithochromy — an art which my uncle, who 
wanted to learn a little of everything, had practiced. 

My heart beating, and straining my ear for every 
sound, with what agitation of mind did I rummage 
among all these curiosities ! 

My uncle might have permitted me to look at some 
of these things, but I had never dared ask him, so sacred 
and precious did they seem to me. I almost felt as if I 
were committing a sacrilege in touching them ; as if I 
divined the multitude of arts of which they were the 
humblest emblems. But curiosity soon got the better 
of respect. I carried my daring so far as to handle 
some of the objects. I tried at first, on the back of my 
hand, all the cakes of paint, one after another. Then I 
painted the lid of the box, so that my uncle could not 
open it again, as the slide would not work. And in his 
innocent simplicity he suspected nothing! 

I would also prick the bladders with the point of my 
penknife, and once, one of them bursting open in my 
hands, covered my fingers with Prussian blue, some of 
which fell on the carpet. How frightened I was ! 

What if my uncle were to return unexpectedly? I 
hurried to the bake-house to wash my hands with sand, 
telling Phillipine that I had stained them with her wash- 
ing-blue, and then, by dint of sponging the carpet with 
soap and water, I succeeded at last in effacing the stain. 

If my uncle returned before the hour of recreation, 
we would hear his key turning in the lock of the garden 
gate, and in the twinkling of an eye we would run to 
seat ourselves at our desks and open our books. He 
would come in and look at our copy-books. Then we 
would show him the pens. 

Then, before going away again, he would mend five 
or six more, and then each of us had to write his page. 
We would hurry and scrawl it anyway. We had orders 


to remain in the school-room till half-past eleven in the 
morning and till four in the afternoon. The signal of 
release, long awaited, came from a tall clock behind the 
staircase. By leaning over the banisters I could touch 
its case. 

But it happened that this clock, which had always 
kept very regular time, would occasionally hurry forward 
wildly. The watchmaker came to set it right a dozen 
times, and declared at last that it was beyond his skill. 
The more he worked at it, the faster it went. 

Oh, my innocent relatives ! They never once sus- 
pected that it was I, who, contrariwise to Joshua, 
hastened the march of the hours, so as not to be found 
fault with, if my uncle were to return unexpectedly. 


Another of the forbidden pleasures which I used to 
enjoy with my heart beating at the sound of every step 
on the stairs, was, also during my uncle's absence, to 
turn over the leaves of the books concealed behind the 
green silk-lined doors of the book-case, but from which 
their owner, in his unsuspecting trust, had neglected to 
withdraw the keys. The five or six compartments con- 
tained rows of very handsome volumes, all bound in calf. 
There were in these books a number of fine engravings, 
some steel engravings even, so fine that it was necessary 
to look at them very closely to distinguish the strokes. 
The illustrations by the younger Moreau of Voltaire's 
romances, those of La Pucelle, for instance, awoke in me 
strange emotions, and plunged me into profound reveries. 

I soon had more leisure to devote to these stolen 
pleasures, for my uncle, who still continued his walks to 


the garden on the marsh, spent a good deal of his time 
also in the unfinished parlor, where, for several weeks, 
he had been giving singing-lessons to some young girls. 
He taught them canticles, first for the planting of a 
Calvary which my father was going to erect in a corner 
of the cemetery, and afterward for other occasions. 

I could hear these songs distinctly, as the large par- 
lor was directly under our school-room. 

Those fresh voices coming from below had an inex- 
pressible charm for me. 

In my mind there was a mysterious association be- 
tween them and the figures in the engravings, which 
seemed animated by a supernatural life. This fantastic 
idea produced a delightful agitation in me. 

One of these pictures initiated me into the cruelties 
of which men were capable, and opened before my mind 
a vista of anguish hitherto unknown. It represented a 
row of negro slaves bound and fastened together by a 
sort of ladder, which rested heavily on their shoulders, 
and between the rungs of which their heads passed. 

They walked, thus impeded, bending beneath its 
weight, and groaning under the pitiless lash of their 
overseer. It was horrible ! 

When I heard the languishing voices of the young 
girls in the room below, it seemed to me that those poor 
negroes uttered wails and moved their legs automatical- 
ly ; or I would fancy I heard the supplications of angels 
imploring Heaven to end their torment. My heart was 
filled with boundless pity. From contemplation I passed 
into a state of ecstasy. The unhappy slaves writhed 
with ever-increasing anguish, and I could hear their 
groans in monotonous cadence with the voices of the 

singers below : 

** Venez divin Messie, 
Sauvez nos jours infortunes ! . . . . 
Venez ! venez ! venez ! " 


8 9 


I often went to visit Cousin Catharine, the old 
woman with the sickle, whom you already know. 

Her little farm adjoined our grounds. 

I admired the rustic simplicity of the old dwelling : 
its narrow yard, where lay about various articles per- 
taining to agriculture ; the majestic appearance of the 
tall gate of the barn, which only opened, with prolonged 
creaking, at the time of the harvest. 

I loved the mystery of this dark barn ; the pungent 
vapors that issued from the stable when the bright sun- 
light entered it, while the cows rested peacefully in the 
shadow lighted up by golden gleams. 

I loved the kitchen with its wide, dark fireplace, 
where the broth for the animals boiled, diffusing an odor 
of herbs through the whole house ; its window with its 
little panes of greenish glass ; and its clock, with its high 
oaken case and its monotonous tick, tick ; and finally its 
dresser, studded with shining brass nails, where were 
displayed all the modest crockery and brass pots of the 

But, above all, I loved old Catharine herself, the 
good genius of this peaceful retreat. 

I have only a faint recollection of Cousin Zidore, 
her husband, one of the few men I had seen wearing 
the queue, knee-breeches, and shoes with silver buckles. 
His head covered with a white cotton cap, a tranquil 
smile upon his face, he spent almost all his time dozing 
in his straw arm-chair. During his brief waking mo- 
ments he plaited clachoires (whips) for me. This is all I 
can remember of him, except that he was wrinkled with 


One day godmother said to me : " Your Cousin Zi- 
dore is dead ; he will make no more clachoires for you." 
And I pictured him to myself like the little birds I found 
lying on the ground, stiff and motionless, eaten up by 
the ants. 

This event made me feel a sort of terror, and espe- 
cially their putting him into a hole in the earth while 
the bells tolled. 

Cousin Catharine, small and still active, although she 
was bent double by age and by the rude labors of the 
fields, was always singing and smiling. 

She was all love, the good old woman ! 

When she looked at you, her gray eyes sparkled with 
tenderness beneath her gray eyebrows and the rebellious 
locks of her gray hair that escaped from under her cap 
of dazzling whiteness. What a kind expression rested 
on her face, seamed with wrinkles, the mouth protrud- 
ing, as if to kiss and be kissed, for time, which had worn 
her teeth without causing them to drop out, had brought 
her nose and chin close together, without making her 
lips, which curved outward, recede. Her knotty, square- 
nailed fingers clasped mine with a friendly pressure. 
She was always gay, and yet she had known hard times. 

In fine weather she spent whole hours seated at her 
front door knitting, or at the threshold of the kitchen, 
spinning. I think I can still hear the sound of her 
wheel. On stormy evenings she and I would watch the 
clouds, as they formed themselves into fantastic shapes 
of animals and human beings, which would change the 
next moment into other shapes. These eternal images 
of the sky, among which Catharine had once seen my 
mother, caused me an indescribable emotion.* 

* The peasants, in their picturesque speech, call these flaming 
clouds storm-flowers. 



I went too, occasionally, a little farther on, to the 
farm of Jean L , at the end of the village. 

Jean L and his wife Augustine, a childless 

couple, were farmers who enjoyed an honest compe- 
tence, and who remained to the end faithful friends of 
my family. 

They were both at this time nearing forty. The 
wife was a little older than the husband, a thing which 
is not rare in our village. 

They resembled each other as much as if they were 
brother and sister. The faces of both were round, like 
the full moon, the husband's was always smiling ; the 
wife's always laughing. The one was always gay and 
sprightly, the other always serene. 

Jean L spoke slowly, never raising his voice on 

any occasion whatsoever. The peasants said of him, 
" He is a man who thinks slowly." 

His conversation was not wanting, however, in a cer- 
tain amusing charm. He told of his fits of anger, which 
no one had ever witnessed except himself, in the same 
tone in which he would have spoken of his gentlest emo- 

His picturesque turns of speech were strangely com- 
ical, from the contrast between the vigor of the words 
he used and the calmness with which he pronounced 

In no wise inquisitive, he was never surprised at any- 

Madame Jean L it was who first took me to see 

the Torgeos. 

Having occasion to speak to the miller, she took me 
one day with her, for the famous beast was a windmill, 
a fulling-mill — Pan, pan, pan ! — pan, pan, pan ! This I 
discovered in my journey to Lille. 

How many Torgeos I had heard there ! 

9 2 


The vague feeling of terror with which it inspired 
me still clung to me, however, and I could not approach 
it without strong emotion. 

We went there through the fields along a little path 
winding among the hay-stacks. This walk has remained 
in my memory as one of the most romantic excursions 
of my childhood, like the journey to St. Druon. There 
I made closer acquaintance with the pretty blue beetles 
that flew against my face in the garden when I was very 
small, and which I picked up from the ground where 
they had fallen, to play with. 

Fie ! What filthy habits I discovered in them ! I 
was disgusted with them forever afterward. 

But was not this Torgeos indeed an animal ? Was it 
not an immense beetle with its four half-transparent, 
half-opaque wings ? With what a terrifying sound they 
creaked in the wind ! 

And then how loud sounded this noise close by, that 
I had before heard only from a distance — Pan, pan, pan ! 
pan, pan, pan ! 

It was always Jean L , who drove us in his rustic 

vehicle to the Ducasse at F . 

Early in the morning, from my uncle's balcony, we 

could see Madame Jean L getting the vehicle ready. 

She spread fresh straw on the floor, placed seats for us, 
and arranged over hoops the white cloth that was to 
protect us from the sun. 

We followed with happy glances these preparations 
which promised us a day of unusual pleasure. 

Jean L harnessed the gray mare — l< the carriage- 
horse " — and the colt, " the farm-horse," and we took 
our seats on the chairs and settled our feet among the 

Then the equipage, swaying from side to side, was 
started with some difficulty (the roads at that time were 


not very smooth), and set off at an easy pace, in har- 
mony with the character of the phlegmatic driver. 

One by one the houses of the village were left behind, 
and then the long rows of hay-stacks from which the 
mist was slowly rising under the influence of the morn- 
ing sun. 

Through this mist appeared, far in the distance, 
other villages — Henin, Dourges, Noyelles, Harnes, Fou- 

Above the thatched roofs and red tiles could be seen 
the shining slate and glazed tiled roofs of the houses of 
the wealthier inhabitants. 

We were told the names of these, and learned how 
their fortunes had been made. 

The load stretched far away in the distance, seeming 
endless. We drove on and on. 

At last F appears in sight. 

Leaving the high-road we enter an alley bordered by 
tall poplars and soon reach the farm-house of Monsieur 
D , our host, a real farm-house, whose two high pigeon- 
houses we had for some time past perceived rising above 
the trees. These stood side by side with the belfry 
tower with which they struggled for pre-eminence, the 
one emerging from the leafy trees of the orchard, the 
others from among the broad roofs of the barns. 

On our arrival the gate was opened admitting us into 
a large, light yard, where the sun shone golden on the 
dung-hills, and swarming with poultry — turkeys with 
mottled feathers, proud peacocks, hens, cocks, and 

Pigeons flocked upon the roof, circling around the 
pigeon-houses, and dropping showers of their feathers 
into the puddle. 

Geese, noisy and threatening-looking, came up to us 
and plucked at our trousers. 



More hospitable than these their master stood with 
a friendly smile upon his countenance, waiting to re- 
ceive us on the threshold, surrounded by his wife and 
sons. Embraces were exchanged. We then went to 
the dining-room, the walls of which were hung with 
views of Lyons and of the wharves of the Rh6ne and 
Seine, crowded with boats and people. We found some 
of the guests there, who had arrived before us. Others 
came later on in cars, covered like ours, in coaches and 
in cabriolets. They were a mixed company — some 
wealthy farmers, a doctor, two elegant young men from 

Douai, friends of D 's sens, a veterinary surgeon, an 

unfrocked priest who swore like a trooper, and, finally, the 

cure of F , the Rabelais of the village, who published 

stupid and indecent pamphlets against his church, 
possessing none of the genius of his master's works, but 
surpassing them in grossness. 

The repast, consisting as with us of fifteen or eight- 
een dishes, lasted from two o'clock until evening. 

But as soon as we children had satisfied our appetites 
we left the table, to which we returned only for a mo- 
ment when the champagne made its appearance. 

While the grown people ate and drank, we ran de- 
lightedly from corner to corner of the farm, where no 
one was at the time to be seen ; we jumped on the heaps 
of grain in the barns, where we found the stable-boys 
sleeping off the effects of their gin. 

We went to the orchard to shake down the ripe mul- 
berries, at times staining our clean shirts with their juice. 
We ran after the peacocks, to pluck feathers from their 
tails, which we hid under the straw of our car. 

When we went into the parlor at twilight the guests 
were excited with wine, and noisy discussions were 
going on. The unfrocked priest was swearing more 
loudly than ever. The sons of D were quarreling 



among themselves, while their father preserved, amid all 
this confusion, his patriarchal gravity, for he was a little 
old man with white hair, who never lost his dignity, 
although like Abraham he had married his servant — 
whom, however, he had not sent away. 

As for our friend Jean L , the man who " thought 

slowly," he appeared as tranquil as when we had set out 
in the morning, only, when he went to the kitchen to 
light his pipe at the chafing-dish, we noticed that his 
gait was a little unsteady. 

We returned home in the evening. My father and 
my uncle exchanged their impressions of the visit, while 
we children, tired with running about all day, leaned 
back in our seats, thinking dreamily of our beautiful pea- 
cocks' feathers, and watching, with sleepy eyes, the tall 
poplars that stood like phantoms at either side of the 
road, disappearing one by one in the darkness. 


The day for the planting of the Calvary arrived. 
The crucifix was waiting ready in our house. We were 
struck by the beauty of the countenance, which formed 
a contrast to the defaced and ugly features of the saints 
in the church. A painter had come from Lille to color 
it — a pale man with long hair, who caused Fremy to 
descend considerably in my estimation. And then, in- 
stead of painting the flesh of a uniform red color, he 
was able to variegate it with blue veins, and to blend 
the tints in it with finished skill. 

From the wound in the side he had made three 
drops of water and three drops of blood gush forth. 
My uncle reminded him that the blood and the water 

g6 the life of an artist. 

should be mixed together. He made the necessary 
change, praising my uncle's perspicacity. All great 
artists are modest ! It was a slow business, this erec- 
tion of the Calvary, and one which was not carried 
through without some difficulty. 

In the village, indeed, no one could carry out any 
undertaking without having obstacles thrown in his 

First, the question of the costume of the girls who 
were to sing was discussed. The white frock was unani- 
mously accepted ; but when my uncle proposed, in 
addition, a black sash, because the ceremony should be 
given something of a mourning character, a lively oppo- 
sition was raised by the feminine flock. They all wanted 
a blue sash. My uncle held his ground, and insisted 
upon the black. This resulted in a great many seces- 
sions from the choir. The prettiest girl, and also the 
one who was most coquettish, left, and never returned. 
Then there was another annoyance. One of the female 
singers had a voice like that of a man, which, in the 
opinion of her companions, spoiled the singing. She 
was excluded. Thence sprang pangs of wounded vanity, 
which extended to the lovers and relations of the 
•principal parties concerned. 

The whole village took up the quarrel. 

The effects of all this were soon apparent. Thus 
the band of the firemen, who were to play some funeral 
marches at the ceremony, stirred up by the lover of the 
pretty coquette who had withdrawn from the choir, re- 
belled and refused to play. This insignificant occur- 
rence was the source of innumerable vexations to my 
family later on. 

And all because of their solicitude for the public 

From this time forward, there did not pass a single day 



in which I did not hear them complain of the ignorance, 
the stupidity, and the base envy of some one or other 
of the villagers. 

I must hasten to add, however, that the great major- 
ity always showed their appreciation of them. 


I was about eight years old when my father took me 
with him in one of his journeys to Regnauville, a little 
village in the neighborhood of Hesdin, situated on the 
borders of the forest of Labroye. 

This forest, a vast and magnificent domain, belonged 
to the Duke of Duras, whose manager and steward my 
father was, as I have already said. The recollection of 
this visit remains in my mind like a distant dream of a 
long and sunny holiday 

At Sens we visited my grand-aunt Platel, the widow 
of a notary of that name, my mother's uncle. The 
impression she gave me was that of a great lady, very 
old and very dignified. 

The only other recollection I retain of my visit is 
that of a very talkative parrot with a red tail, which must 
still be living ; and three terra-cotta figures, painted after 
nature, which stood at the end of a long garden — two 
beggars, a woman carrying a basket on her back, and a 
man with a crust of bread in the pocket of his coat ; 
and a hunter eternally taking aim at a hare which he 
never hit. 

The house, too, was old, and all the trees in the gar- 
den were old. 

I was standing with my father in my aunt's little yard, 
when I perceived at the window of one of the rooms a 


man of immense height, almost a giant, who wore a green 
uniform with silver buttons, ornamented with silver braid. 
He laughed down at me from where he stood a good-na- 
tured, noisy laugh, stretching his mouth from ear to ear, 
and showing all his teeth. 

" Have no fear," my father said to me ; " he is a 
faithful servant, who will love ycu dearly, and you will 
sleep at his house while at Regnauville. He is my chief 
forester. His name is Bonaventure." 

I do not know why he had come to meet us. 

We set out in the stage-coach at a quick pace, the 
horses shaking their manes. 

Oh, how buoyant the air was ! And what a long 
and delightful drive ! 

What ever-fresh transports, as the massive wheels 
rolled along, across vast plains, over white and dusty 
roads, that every instant seemed to stop short at the sky, 
as if the earth came to an end there ! Soon we passed 
mountain after mountain, village after village, these lat- 
ter seeming in the distance like groves, so completely 
hidden were their mossy roofs and slated spires among 
trees on whose dark foliage the light and shadow played. 

Beggars came to meet us at the entrance to every vil- 
lage where we stopped, holding out their ragged felt 
hats, and asking alms in a whining tone. We changed 
horses, with loud clanking of chains, at inns like farm- 
houses, where we dined hastily, surrounded by chickens, 
who picked up the crumbs as they fell from the bare 
table. We saw things we had never seen before : wonder- 
ful sign-boards, strange deformities, and sunshine — sun- 
shine everywhere — burning up the meadows, filtering 
through the branches, clinging to the roofs, casting on 
the streets great splashes of light, gliding, glowing, dis- 
appearing, and shining, reflected back from every pool 
with dazzling brightness. 


Large pigeon-houses of brick and white stone, like 
enormous bee-hives, around which pigeons fluttered in- 
cessantly, raised their heavy square masses into the air, 
and were reflected, with their spotted tiles and grimac- 
ing weathercocks, in the dark puddles, into which the 
feathers fluttered in a shower, and where innumerable 
ducks paddled about. 

Inhabited by poor wood-cutters, Regnauville was at 
that time a very small and unpretentious village, situated 
near the high-road, and consisting of a few rows of 
straw-thatched houses shaded by fruit-trees whose roots 
were hidden in the grass. Scarcely taller than these 
cabins, the sort of pigeon-house or barn which served at 
once as church and belfry, was also covered by an old, 
dark-thatched roof, dotted with green moss, and bloom- 
ing with spreading plants, 

As humble as these buildings was the little cemetery 
that surrounded them. 

The parsonage behind, shaded by a clump of elms, 
did not disturb this rustic harmony. There was nothing 
to distinguish it from the thatched cottages around. 

In it three old men passed their peaceful existence : 
the cure" ; his brother, formerly a Professor of Philosophy ; 
and their servant, whose name, it is needless to say, was 

Bonaventure's house, the last in the village, a pretty 
little farm-house, very white and very neat, roofed, unlike 
the other houses with red tiles, from its gable window 
commanded a view of the tall forest that, like a straight, 
dark curtain, stretched, six or eight hundred yards away, 
across the horizon. 

In front of the house was a square building, a de- 
pendence of the domain of Labroye, which contained a 
rather large hall for the sale of the wood, and my 
father's office and bedroom. Yellow roses covered its 


walls. It was separated from the street by a railing, 
back of which was a garden opening into the fields. 

When she welcomed us on our arrival, I observed 
that Madame Bonaventure was a woman of enormous 
size, about fifty years old, but very active, and that her 
frank, bright eyes lighted up a large face with massive 

The Bonaventures had no children, but my glance 
fell with pleasure on a young niece who lived with them. 
She was called Antoinette. 

She took me by the hand, led me up a short, steep, 
narrow staircase, opened a door, and said to me : " This 
is your room ; I am to take charge of you ; if you need 
anything during the night, call me. I shall be close by." 

The arrival of my father at Regnauville was always 
an event. The house was soon filled with people — 
wood-cutters, wood-venders, guards, people who came 
to make complaints and beg indulgence. 

Fatigued with the journey, we went to bed early. 
Antoinette tucked me up in the bedclothes, kissed me, 
and I soon fell sound asleep. 


On the following morning, when I opened my eyes, 
still heavy with sleep, I felt a sort of languor, which was 
a reminder, rather than a remnant of fatigue, just suffi- 
cient to make me appreciate the better the rest which I 
was then enjoying. 

In this state of semi-consciousness, which I made no 
effort to shake off, confused ideas, having no connec- 
tion with the events of the day before, floated through 
my brain. 


I thought myself still at home, and I expected to 
hear at any moment the sound of my uncle's step in 
the room, and the noise of his razor and his soap, but 
he did not come. Was it because he was lazy, like 
me ? 

But the silence was more profound than usual, and 
the noises by which it was interrupted were unfamiliar. 
The cocks, heard at rare intervals, crowed a little differ- 
ently. I opened my eyes. I was surprised not to see 
the bunches of daisies on the carpet. Then I remem- 
bered everything. 

I recalled with delight the incidents of the journey. 
I tasted in anticipation the new delights that awaited 

My first glance fell on the muslin curtains of my 
bed, curtains of a lilac color and with a pattern in 
which two scenes repeated each other alternately ; the 
one an old cure mounted on a donkey, to whom a maid- 
servant was handing a cup of milk; the other the same 
cure for whom the same servant was placing a chair to 
enable him to dismount from his saddle. 

In places the folds of the curtains gave these figures 
a curiously grotesque appearance, compressing or dis- 
torting them. 

The little room was all white, with whitewashed 
walls, and, although the window was a very small one, 
extremely bright. A shower of sunbeams streamed in, 
falling on the lower part of the door and on the floor, 
brushing my pillow and dancing on the walls — a shower 
of sunbeams so glorious that they seemed to know that 
they were lighting a Sunday and the Ducasse of Regnau- 

But a quick, light step mounts the stairs, and An- 
toinette knocks at my door, calling out, " Lazy little 
fellow ! " 


She opens the door, and I behold the young girl, her 
teeth glistening and her hair and face reddened by the 
light, in which her eyes, like those of a bird, sparkle mis- 

She leans over me and begins to tickle me vigorously, 
with merry bursts of laughter, while I leap on the bed 
like a trout, drawing with me in my struggles, the cure, 
the donkey, and the servant, who dance about with every 
movement of the curtain. 

And she devours me with kisses, like a joyous young 
mother, while she continues to tickle me. 

Then she straightens herself up in the sunlight, and 
her red hair seems on fire, like a flaming distaff. 

Then, when she has put on my stockings, I jump out 
of bed, dress myself, and run to join my father in his 
room, where the yellow roses seem to shine with re- 
doubled brightness. I find him very happy ; here he 
is completely in his element. 

On my way to church, where we went after break- 
fast, 1 could observe at my leisure the humble cottages 
which I had only been able to catch a glimpse of on the 
day before, as we drove along the road. 

The church seemed to me very small, gloomy, and 
bare. With the exception of two chairs, placed for us 
beside the choir, it contained nothing but wooden 

The cure, a feeble little old man whose delicate face 
was surmounted by white locks, under which his black 
eyes appeared still blacker, greeted us with a friendly 

We were to dine at his house. 

The sermon which he preached to his parishioners 
was in substance as follows : 

" My dear children, I shall not detain you long. To- 
day is the Ducasse, and each one of you should have his 



Ducassier.* I have mine, Monsieur Breton, whom you 
love because, as you know, he is the friend of the poor. 
Enjoy yourselves. God does not prohibit innocent 
pleasure. Dance as much as you please. I shall go to 
the ball to see you ; but do not forget that God disap- 
proves of couples wandering away alone into the forest, 
especially at night." 

The dinner at the cure's was very gay and friendly. 
Poor as the parsonage looked, it was not bare of every- 
thing. An ancient wine-cellar, which was opened only 
on great occasions, contained an onion-wine almost as 
old as its owner. 

My father had an inexhaustible fund of anecdotes, 
which he related with an animation and naturalness that 
made the old man laugh until the tears came. They 
discussed the affairs of the place. Things were going 
badly in the household of the mayor, and my father 
would do well to set them straight. Monsieur So-and- 
so and Monsieur So-and-so were at daggers drawn on 
account of a certain hedge, and the like. 

The cure was a simple, easy man, enlightened and 
tolerant in his views. His brother under his cotton 
cap concealed solid learning and an independence of 
judgment formed, according to what my uncle said, by 
reading the philosophers of the eighteenth century. 

We took coffee in the garden, which Frise would 
have thought greatly neglected. Everything there grew 
as Nature willed, and the wild eglantine climbed unhin- 
dered up the unpruned pear-trees. Innumerable plants 
grew together in confusion in the flower-beds. Secular 
box-trees spread themselves out in gigantic pdques, and 
the sun streamed through the glass roofs of the bee- 
hives upon the swarming bees within. 

* Patron of the festival. 



In the afternoon my father gave audience to a great 
many people in his office, while I chatted with Antoinette, 
who took me to see the cow, the horse, and the pig, to 
which latter she spoke as if it were a human being. 

In the distance could be heard the sounds of the 
violin and the clarionet playing for the dancers, among 
whom, after what he had said, I saw in imagination the 

From Bonaventure's door I perceived to the left the 
village en fete, bathed in a clear white light, while to the 
right, somber and impenetrable, stretched the curtain of 
the silent and mysterious forest. 


On the following day the same awakening, the same 
excess of sunshine in my little chamber, the same rosy 
apparition of the young girl, the same merry sport. 

We breakfasted hastily and were soon on our way to 
the forest, my father chatting with Bonaventure, and I 
running and jumping over the pebbles that lay in heaps 
beside the graveled path. 

My father explained to me their use, and profited by 
this occasion to speak to me of the stone hatchets em- 
ployed, before iron was known, by our ancestors, who 
dwelt in forests such as that which I am going to see. 

The forest ! There it was, seeming to rise from the 
confused shrubbery on its borders higher and higher 
into the sky with every step we took. All at once its 
vast, shadowy naves, lighted up by sudden flashes, 
opened before us — a sublime and awe-inspiring sight to 
a child who had hitherto seen only the tender verdure 
of willow and alder groves. 


The coolness, like that of a church, the strange 
odors, the night-like silence, the obscurity, through 
which, at times, flashed dazzling gleams of light, and 
the solemn and mysterious sense of awe inspired by all 
this, as if one felt here the invisible presence of the 
Deity, filled me with a poignant pleasure mingled with 
a secret fear. 

At regular intervals a sort of wail reached us, the 
notes of a distant cuckoo, uttering its melancholy 

Close beside us, from the high tops of the cherry- 
trees, a silvery voice responded, so clear, so sweet, so 
pure, that it seemed to come through the waters of a 
limpid fountain. I recognized the voice of an old friend, 
the goldfinch ; but the song which resounded plaintively 
through our meadows had not the brilliancy of this. 

The cuckoo took up the strain. Then followed a 
silence like that of a church, and our footsteps rustled 
through the short grass and brambles with an unfamiliar 
sound, while through the high, dark arches overhead 
glimpses of the sky shone like stars. 

And the giant beech-trees raised their white trunks 
spotted with velvety black patches, and the oaks twisted 
their wrinkled branches. 

At times I shut my eyes, dazzled by the green figu- 
rations of the sun darting over tufts of heather and fern 
that glowed like red and black flames among the turf, 
striped like the skin of a wild-cat. 

Ivy grew along the ground and climbed to the sum- 
mits of the trees, clasping them in its thousand arms. 

Now and then a light breeze sighed among the masses 
of dark foliage, swaying them gently, and among the 
masses of transparent verdure that glowed with a brill- 
iant light. 

But I can find no words in which to describe the im- 


pression I then received, which was one of the strongest 
of my childhood. 

The child, who is all feeling, has no means of ex- 
pressing his thoughts. He does not analyze his sensa- 
tions, and, in order to describe what I then felt, I must 
use words that I would not at the time have understood. 
This presents a difficulty. 

My father, radiant with enthusiasm, appeared to me 
under a new aspect ; he seemed to me handsome. Ah ! 
the child who, at the risk of his life, had escaped from 
the prison of the chateau and hidden himself in the 
depths of the wood, this child still survived in him ! 

Later on it will be seen that his passion for forests 
brought about his ruin. 

Every part of the forest, however, was not clothed 
with this wild majesty. 

We traversed clearings where only puny trees and 
heaps of fagots were to be seen, and openings into 
which the sun streamed, where flights of butterflies that 
seemed made of mother-of-pearl and fire soared in zig- 
zag flight. 

And I felt happier in these luminous places than 
among the lofty trees. 

But by-and-by I felt very lonely, and I began to 
think of those at home and of the more familiar and 
cheerful scenery amid which they lived, of my god- 
mother, who at this season never failed to prepare for us 
three pots of different kinds of cooling draughts. I 
missed even my uncle, who, in spite of his occasional 
severity, manifested great affection for us, and who had 
so strong a sentiment of justice that he would beg our 
pardon, with tears in his eyes, when it chanced that he 
had punished us undeservingly. Then the holly, with 
its hard and thorny foliage, and the rough brambles, re- 
called to my mind by the contrast they formed to it, our 


vegetation, so tender in comparison. Oh ! the colzas, 
the pinks, the blue flax ! 

In short, I grew tired of the forest, because I felt, 
when I was there, as if I were lost in it ; and then it was 
always the same. 

So that one day I begged papa to let me stay in the 
house under pretext of writing some copies, but in real- 
ity to be with Antoinette, whose petting began to please 

In fact, she was the only person who could console 
me for the absence of all I had left at home. 

And many a happy hour we passed at the little farm- 
house—she, the animals, and I. 

When the morning of our departure arrived she came 
to awaken me, and essayed in vain to play her accus- 
tomed pranks. The moment she kissed me she burst 
into tears. 


When we set out I thought the horses moved more 
slowly than they had ever moved before, so impatient 
was I to see my family and my home. I would have 
liked to fly there ! 

How I envied the swallow that skimmed so swiftly 
along the ditches by the roadside ! My thoughts flew on 
before me, and, huddled in a corner of the stage-coach, 
my eyes close shut, I fancied I could hear, amid the 
noise of its jolting and the rolling of the wheels, the re- 
frains of my native place ; my uncle's songs and the 
ditties of Henriette and Frise, and the rattling of the 
window-panes brought to me, like a joyous echo, the 
cries that my brothers, excited by their sports, were at 
that moment uttering. 


And again I saw before me my father's house and 
the dear ones there. 

I recalled again those long evenings when Joseph 
would describe to me, while he was polishing the shoes, 
his campaign and the retreat from Moscow. He had 
slept upon the ground in the snow, wrapped in the skins 
of the horses whose flesh he had eaten. Once he had 
carried on his back for hours one of his comrades who 
had become insensible from the cold, and had thus saved 
his life. And he made no merit of this action. What 
other man in his place would have been equally modest ? 

The dreadful hardships he then endured had left 
him with rheumatism, from which he suffered greatly, 
and an inextinguishable thirst, which compelled him to 
stop at every gin-shop he passed for drink, for which he 
never paid. But in every other respect what a fine fel- 
low he was ! What blind devotion, like that of a faith- 
ful dog for its master, did he show for my family ! I 
can see him now, when he was sawing wood one day in 
the unfinished parlor, and the loud voice reached us, of 
a man speaking to my father at the front door, strain his 
ear to listen, and then start up trembling with anger, 
throw down his saw, and, at one bound, quick as light- 
ning, leap through the window into the yard. I recalled 
to mind also an incident that occurred a year or two be- 
fore (in 1834) at the time of the cholera, of which every 
one was in such terror and which I too was a little afraid 
of, on account of the table covered with black cloth and 
supporting a crucifix, that stood before the door of 
every house in which lay a dead person. My father fell 
suddenly ill, and as the doctor ordered a medicine which 
was to be given to him at once, Joseph started in the 
middle of the night to bring it from Carvin, for then, as 
now, there was no apothecary at Courrieres. He set out, 
as I said, and lo ! he found the ferry-boat turned round. 



He tried in vain to waken the sleeping toll-keeper, who 
made no response either to his cries or to his blows 
against the closed shutters. What was to be done ! 
Throw himself into the water, dressed as he was, and 
swim across the river. And this is what Joseph did ! 

By what strange contradiction of character was it 
that this man, who was so good at heart, had so peevish 
a disposition, and why was he always quarreling with his 
wife Phillipine, who was also a model of goodness ? 

My thoughts dwelt on all this while the trees and the 
houses flew past us on either side of the road, and the 
apple-trees in the meadows whirled past dizzily, keep- 
ing time to the noise of the coach-wheels, and I said to 
myself, " What happiness it will be to embrace this 
faithful follower to-morrow, notwithstanding his rough 
skin pitted with small-pox, his large nose covered with 
pimples, and his woolly hair like that of a savage ! " 

I thought too of my uncle. 

A proof that he was not always severe is the fact that 
in the evening he often recited plays to us, and that 
then, in his own words, he became a child again to 
amuse children. At times we would sit on his foot and 
cling to his leg while he would pretend to be making 
desperate efforts to raise our light weight. At other 
times he would take a candle in his hand, I would seize 
the border of his dressing-gown, Louis would take hold 
of the tails of his coat, 6mile would place himself last, 
and we would tramp along, one behind the other, keep- 
ing time with our feet as we sang : 

" J'ai perdu tout mon bonbeur, 
J'ai perdu mon serviteur, 
Colin me delaisse. . . ." 

But I was moved to tears as I thought of my old 
godmother. And, indeed, we never had occasion to re- 


member that we had no mother; so devoted was she to 
us in every way. Even her wrinkles made her all the 
dearer to us. We made haste to give her proofs of our 
affection, as if we felt that she would be the first to de- 

How many times have we fallen asleep in her lap, 
while murmuring the prayer she taught us, resting our 
heads against her bosom, that rose and fell with her 
breathing, tranquil as her conscience ! 

How many sleepless hours had she spent bending 
over us in our childish illnesses ! She often told us the 
dreams these constant anxieties would produce. At 
times we would be attacked by ferocious dogs, and she 
would throw herself upon them and tear them to pieces. 
Then it was a man who pushed against little Louis, who 
was blowing a whistle, and knocked the whistle down his 
throat. She would fall upon the man and strangle him 
in her arms. 

And the vehicle rolled on, and beyond the plains the 
slender slated spires of belfry towers pierced here and 
there through the somber shadows of the woods. 

And as we were to stop at Calonne on our way to 
visit my granduncle, Henry Fumery, my godmother's 
brother, who still dwelt in the paternal farm-house, the 
thought came to me that godmother had once been as 
young as I was, and that she had made her first com- 
munion, a white veil over her fair rosy face, a white 
taper in her hand, and had returned from church be- 
tween the yoke-elm hedges of a village like the villages 
we were driving through. 

I have forgotten where we slept that night. 

On the following morning the sunshine played no 
longer in the little room, and I might have waited long 
in vain for Antoinette to come. I saw in imagination 


the young girl, with her golden hair, standing there 
yonder, looking at my empty bed, as I had often looked 
into empty nests robbed of the young birds. 


When I entered my granduncle Henry's farm-house 
I recognized it by the glowing descriptions of it with 
which my grandmother had interspersed the stories she 
used to tell us of her youthful days. 

And, indeed, nothing had changed there since the 
time of my great-grandfather, the magistrate. 

I recognized the pastures and the ditches, bridged 
with planks over which my grandmother had many a 
time walked with careful step, as she returned at night 
from some sick-bed, carrying her lantern in her hand, 
undisturbed by the fears of witches ; the muddy roads, 
paved with stones, so far apart that one had to walk in 
a series of jumps ; and the shady paths crossing the 
sunny meadows. 

And here, at last, is the bowery, tranquil village, 
with its little church roofed with green moss-covered 

Here it is that godmother spent her youthful days — 
days full of affection, courage, and piety. 

I had these qualities of hers in my mind when de- 
picting the character of Angele in my poem " Jeanne." 
Let me recall here a few of the events of her life. 

This dates back as far as the Reign of Terror, when 
the ferocious Le Bon, commissioner of the republic at 
Arras, brought dishonor, as, alas ! did so many others 
of our countrymen, on the justest of causes. 

In his ignorant simplicity, believing what his father 


before him had believed, Scolastique Fumery did not 
divine the benefits that were to result from the Revolu- 
tion, and saw in it only the crimes, the recital of which 
filled the farm-house with indignation and terror. 

The storm was approaching. 

Bands of wicked men (as godmother called them) 
went through the country, desecrating the churches and 
decapitating the sacred statues. 

The pious young girl concealed the patron saint of 
the village under her mattress; and when the wicked 
men came, placing herself at the head of the most coura- 
geous women of the village, she led them to the church, 
which these men had entered, and, rushing toward them, 
threw in their faces sand and ashes which they had 
brought with them in their aprons. 

Betrayed and denounced, after a search which re- 
sulted in the discovery of the hidden saint, godmother 
was thrown into prison in Arras, where she daily ex- 
pected to be led to execution, for I know not how 

She emerged from prison when the death of Robes- 
pierre brought about that of Le Bon. 

They came and told her she was free, and, as she 
was unable to communicate with her relatives, she found 
herself, outside the prison-gate, friendless and without 
knowing where to turn. 

There she learned that among the prisoners liber- 
ated with her was Doctor Platel, of Lestrem, a village 
not far from her own. She knew him by reputation. 
She went to him. 

They returned to the village together, recounting 
their sufferings to each other, mingling their tears of 
joy, uniting their hopes, so that the journey must have 
been a happy one, filled with tender emotions ; and 
Cupid, who doubtless lay in wait for them, with drawn 



bow, in some corner of the yoke- elm hedge, did not 
miss his aim, for they were soon married. 

During this time my paternal grandfather Lambert 
Breton was fighting in Belgium^ under the command of 
General Vandamme. 

Let me here say a few words in relation to his his- 

The religious old books, with their wonderful pict- 
ures, which had excited my admiration in the left at 
home, will be remembered, but I forgot to say that, in 
the same trunk which contained them, I had also found 
a sword, the hilt of which terminated in a Phrygian 
cap. I broke the blade of it one day, plunging it into 
the earth to clean the rust from it, and this was one of 
the deepest of my childish griefs, for I had a veneration 
for this sword which had belonged to my grandfather. 

These books and this weapon symbolize two phases 
of his life. 

When the Revolution broke out he was studying 
theology at the Abbey of Anchin at Douai. He had 
dedicated himself to the priesthood. The irresistible 
pressure of events, the new ideas which circulated in 
the air, turned him aside from this project. 

He quitted the abbey and returned to Courrieres. 
He did not long remain tranquil there. 

Denounced by an aristocrat, he too was arrested by 
order of the same Le Bon, and conducted to the prison 
at Arras. At this moment France called all her chil- 
dren to the defense of her threatened frontiers. The in- 
habitants of Courrieres formed a company, chose my 
grandfather for their captain, and marched to Arras to 
demand his release, which they obtained. 

As I have before said, they set out for the seat of 
war in Belgium. 

We keep among our family archives letters of Cap- 



tain Lambert Breton that breathe an ardent patriotism, 
for he had yielded to the contagion of the movement 
that drew with it all hearts. 

As soon as the campaign ended, he married. 

It will be seen that, but for the Revolution, I would 
never have been born, 


I was to quit this dear spot, to bid adieu to the pa- 
ternal mansion and to those scenes where every one and 
everything, the animals, and even the trees, had been 
so closely intermingled with my existence. The days 
spent in the freedom of the open air were past. I was 
about to leave my Eden for a gloomy school. 

My uncle wished to place me in the college of Do- 
uai, but my father preferred a small seminary about 
twenty leagues distant from Courrieres, where some of 
our friends had placed their sons. 

On the day of my departure my brothers wept in 
corners. Godmother and Phillipine wept — everybody 
wept. I was scarcely ten, and I was going to be de- 
prived of the sweet indulgences of home. 

On the journey my cheerfulness returned : I saw 
new objects ; and then my father and my uncle were 
with me. 

When they left me and I found myself alone among 
this crowd of school-boys whose faces were strange to 
me, the recollection of all I had left, of all that I loved, 
filled my swelling heart with poignant grief and I broke 
into sobs. 

I wandered about the large, gloomy court-yard, the 
butt of the jeers of my new school-fellows, whom I be- 



gan to hate with the unreasoning hatred of the exile for 
everything belonging to the place of his banishment, 
thinking them, with a few exceptions, ugly and rude. 

And instead of the vast horizons, the trees and flow- 
ers, an immense building, bare as a barrack, the Mili- 
tary Hospital, rose above the court-yard wall. 

I remained there three weary years — years that the 
bright intervals of the vacations only served to render 
all the more gloomy. I gradually became accustomed 
to this narrow existence, in which everything was un- 
congenial, in which an organized system of espionage 
existed among the pupils, and in which I search my 
memory in vain for the face of a friend, for friendship 
was prohibited and punished. Thus, when it was ob- 
served that I preferred the company of some of the boys 
to that of the others, I was forbidden to associate with 
them, and I was forced to choose my companions from 
a list of a dozen of the pupils most repellent to me. 

I was unable to conquer the repugnance with which 
these boys inspired me, and for a long time I preferred 
to remain alone. I became dreamy and absent-minded, 
and spent my time idly gazing into vacancy. 

From these degrading surroundings, however, there 
was, for some natures, a refuge in mysticism. 

Wounded in my tenderest affections, I fell into a 
state of spiritual languor in which I abandoned myself 
to celestial raptures. I heard the torments of hell, the 
terrors of purgatory, and the dazzling splendors of para- 
dise, continually talked of. 

Religious ceremonies were frequent, and were cele- 
brated with comparative splendor. 

I had been brought up by an uncle who was a Chris- 
tian philosopher. I did not believe all that was taught 
in the seminary, but I had a thirst for emotions, and I 
gave myself up to mystic reveries. Among the masters 


and the pupils, although there were some hypocrites, 
with languishing eyes, gaping mouths, and pious grim- 
aces, there were many who were sincerely devout. I 
was touched by the ardent piety of some of these, espe- 
cially of little L , whose fair face, framed in curls, 

wore a truly angelic expression when, motionless and 
lost in prayer, his soul soared heavenward. 

I loved him and would have liked to make him my 
friend, but, even if he had shared this feeling, all inti- 
macy was prohibited, and I did not approach him. 

There was another of the pupils, also, who was sin- 
cere in his devotion, E C , the son of a friend 

of my father, a bon-vivant, whose character presented a 
strange contrast to the spirituality of his son. 

How retiring he was ! What a melancholy expres- 
sion in his eyes ! Older than I, and my monitor of 
study, he would reprove me gently for my faults, which 
he never reported. 

He was thin and puny-looking. He would spend 
whole hours in a state of ecstasy in the chapel. He 
soon afterward decided to study for the priesthood, and 
went to the large seminary. What storm shook his soul 
I never knew. But one day we learned that he had 
thrown off his cassock. He returned to the village, to 
fall ill and die. Poor friend ! 

Oh, how long and weary were the ceremonies in the 
chapel, especially at vespers, when, in the warm and lan- 
guorous summer afternoons, I would give myself up to 
meditation, while the sun streamed through the high 
windows, with their bright-red blinds, darting into every 
corner of the little temple rays red as blood ! I felt as 
if I were among the fires of hell ; while at the end of the 
chapel the altar, starred with light, shone like a glimpse 
of paradise through the smoke of the incense, whose 
odor at times made me faint. Ah, what celestial ravish- 


ment I experienced the first time I saw my young com- 
panions make their first communion ! 

But what I took for divine love was, my confessor 
explained to me, only a trap set by the evil one for my 
pride ! It is evident that I was far from being ortho- 
dox in my reveries. This confessor rated me soundly 
for it. 

I was not allowed to make my first communion, 
which grieved me greatly, for I had looked upon this 
act as the acme of felicity. Every year there were two 
or three weeks of retreat, during which we abandoned 
all play, all work, all profane study, in order to practice 
religious exercises. Then Jesuit fathers came to hold 
conferences in the chapel and in the study-room. 

This was an occasion of special graces and plenary 
indulgences. It was also a good opportunity to enlight- 
en the hesitating and confound the proud. Well, dur- 
ing those retreats I was sent to the infirmary, along with 
some esprits forts among the pupils, to continue our 
usual studies, with the pretext that we would not profit 
by those graces, and that our hearts, not being prepared 
to receive the divine seed, the devil would avail himself 
of the occasion to sow there his tares. 

All this helped to cure me of my mysticism. 

The following year, although I was at the head of 
the class in the catechism, my first communion was again 
postponed. But I had now grown more indifferent, and 
when, in 1840, at the age of thirteen, I was at last per- 
mitted to make it, my strongest feeling was one of mor- 
tification, caused by finding myself overtopping by a 
head my happy little companions. 

Ah, how much more enlightened and liberal did my 
uncle's teachings seem ! 

In our walks, however, I enjoyed once more a little 
real sunshine and healthy pleasure. 


We would play foot-ball, and eat cherries that we 
bought from an old woman, in sunny meadows sur- 
rounded by vast uncultivated heaths, growing on heights 
bathed in a purer atmosphere, whence could be seen 
the hill of Cassel, whose windmills and houses seemed 
to quiver in the distant light. 

The masters would take off their cassocks, and, in 
their shirt-sleeves, join in the sports of the boys. 

I think this sort of camaraderie was one of the secrets 
of their influence, and I regret that it is not practiced in 
secular institutions. 

Even at play-time, however, I often remained alone. 
The unruly city boys scorned my rustic simplicity, and, 
in fact, I felt myself, when among them, awkward and 
weighed down by a timidity that was fostered by my 
lonely habits. 

Amid these deteriorating surroundings one passion 
saved me — the love of art. 

To become a painter ! This had been my dream 
ever since the time when Fremy used to paint the fig- 
ures in our garden. My father allowed me to take the 
drawing-course, directed by an easy, good old man, 
whom I regarded as a great artist, because I had seen a 
lithograph of his representing the ruins of the Abbey of 
St. Bertin in the stationer's window. 

The first time I entered this, class I was seized with 
a lively emotion at the sight of the copies hanging over 
the desks. With what delightful thrills I penetrated, 
little by little, into the agitating mysteries of the stump 
and charcoal ! What happy hours of forgetfulness I 
spent copying figures of Moses, of Mordecai, of Scipio, 
and, above all, Raphaelesque, wearing handkerchiefs 
twisted around the head like turbans, and fastened un- 
derneath the chin ! 

Ah, to be able to follow the delicate and graceful out- 


II 9 

lines of those foreheads, of those regular noses, those 
rounded cheeks, those exquisitely flexible necks ! 

Raphael ! O sublime genius ! You consoled me 
for the disturbance in my uneasy mysticism. 

During the drawing-hour some of the pupils took 
lessons in music, in an adjoining room, and nothing 
could be more delightful than to hear, as I drew, the 
silvery sighs of the flute — mingling the pleasures of sound 
with those of sight — vibrating in unison with the rapt- 
ures of my growing passion, and their melodious ex- 
pression, as it were. We drew in the evening by lamp- 

At times we could perceive — O mar-joy ! — the severe 
countenance of the Superior, looking in at us through the 
window-panes, as he prowled around in the dark court- 
yard, for we were everywhere under surveillance. 

1 liked geography. This, too, was a species of art. 
Certain countries charmed me by their shape ; others 
displeased me. That of France seemed to me the best 
proportioned, the best balanced. South America at- 
tracted me by its svelte elegance of form, and Terra del 
Fuego, which terminates it, plunged me into mysterious 

But to color my maps I had only very poor paints. 
It was necessary to soak them in water for a long time 
to obtain even a pale tint ; and I remember a red and a 
green, very beautiful in the cake, from which I could 
extract nothing, while the boy whose desk was in front 
of mine had superb paints, three or four times as large 
as mine, and I wondered at the ease with which he 
blended them and filled the brush with their splendid 

I would never have dared to ask my father for paints 
like those, so much beyond his means did they seem to me. 

This treasure kindled in me the consuming flames of 


covetousness. I experienced the tortures caused by a 
fixed idea and by the pangs of envy. A demon whis- 
pered ceaselessly in my ear, " Take them ! take them ! " 
I lay awake for hours thinking of carmine, emerald 
green, gamboge — oh ! above all, of gamboge — and in my 
sleep I dreamed of them. 

One night, unable to resist the temptation any 
longer, I got up and went to the study-room, my heart 
palpitating with guilty terrors ; my teeth chattered ; my 
legs bent under me ; and I trembled in every limb. 

By a singular coincidence, of which I never knew the 
cause, at the moment when I opened the desk, a school- 
fellow suddenly came into the room and asked me what 
I was doing there. 

I thought I should die with fright, and, as in a case 
like this, one is always stupid, I answered, " I am look- 
ing at the butterflies ! " (The owner of the paints was a 
collector of butterflies.) 

I had thrust the box hastily into my pocket, and, as I 
hurried up-stairs, my heart beating so violently that it 
caused me 'pain, my companion, who was close behind, 
noticed the noise that sounded from my pocket — accus- 
ing noise, produced at every step I took, by the shaking 
of the paints in the pine-wood box. 

I did not sleep all night, agitated between remorse 
and the happiness of possessing the object so ardently 
coveted, and which I kept closely clasped to my breast. 
With the first ray of daylight I tried on the back of my 
hand the wonderful colors. 

I was not to possess them long, however. My esca- 
pade became known to their legitimate owner. He was 
an excellent boy, named D'Halluin. He deserves that 
I should mention his name, for he was very generous. 
All he said was, " Give them back to me — I will say 
nothing about them." And he kept his word. 



My passion for drawing led me into another dis- 
agreeable adventure which left a feeling of rancor in my 

In the school there was a large black wolf-hound, 
which answered to the name of Coco. 

I took a fancy, one day, to draw this dog standing 
on his hind legs, clad in a cassock, and holding between 
his fore paws a book. I wrote underneath, " The Abbe 
Coco reading his Breviary." 

This innocent sketch made the tour of the school- 
room, passing from hand to hand, provoking the mirth 
of some, the disapprobation of others, when it was noticed 
by the master, who ran and seized it. " Who has been 
guilty of this wickedness ? " he asked. I was immedi- 
ately denounced. 

The master pulled my ears, made me kneel down in 
the middle of the hall, and sent my poor caricature to 
the sub-director. 

A few moments afterward the bell rang for supper, 
and all the boys went to the refectory. I was about to 
follow them, when he said to me, " Stay where you are ! " 

And there I stayed, asking myself anxiously what 
they were going to do to me. 

I had not long to wait. I was soon aroused from the 
torpor into which I had sunk by a formidable blow from 
behind, and I knew then that those who told me they 
had seen in similar cases, thirty-six candles, had not 
spoken figuratively, for it seemed as if a shower of fire- 
works had exploded in my brain. Half stunned, I felt 
myself lifted from the floor and dragged in an iron grasp 
down the whole length of the stairs, my feet bumping 
against every step. 


When I reached the room of the sub-director, he 
threw me on the ground, and looked at me in silence 
with pale and implacable countenance. 

I was terrified. When he saw that I had to some 
extent recovered my senses, the monster put me this 
pitiless question : 

"Was it to ridicule your professor, or was it from 
irreverence, that you made that infamous scrawl ? " 

To ridicule a professor seeming to me the graver of 
the two faults, I responded : 

u From irreverence ! from irreverence ! " 

He immediately took off his cassock, seized a cat-o'- 
nine-tails lying ready on his desk, and then followed a 
long and terrible struggle, in which I rolled among the 
chairs and under the table, striking myself against every 
corner, and writhing under every stroke of the lash. 
The sub-director was a tall and powerful man, of a very 
pale complexion, with broad, square shoulders, and arms 
of which he was in the mood to make me feel the full 

It is needless to add that during this rain of blows he 
exhausted the vocabulary of epithets usually applied to 
the greatest criminals. 

Strange to say, this barbarous punishment did not 
enrage me at the time as much as the recollection of it 
does now. It was convincing. I regarded myself as a 
hardened sinner, a species of reprobate. 

In my imagination, excited by the blows of the whip, 
my executioner assumed supernatural proportions, and, 
seen through a cloud of dust, whirling the thong, he ap- 
peared terrible and beautiful, and surrounded by a halo 
like an avenging archangel ; and the next time I went 
to the cathedral I thought of him when I looked up at 
the St. Michel of Ziegler over the principal altar, shin- 
ing in his golden armor. I was certain then that I was 


foredoomed to hell ; but, as I had no positive knowledge 
regarding the location of that place, I suffered less from 
fear of its tortures, than from a feeling of self-contempt. 
Though at times, indeed, I saw again in imagination 
those devils, armed with bars of red-hot iron, whom I had 
imagined 1 had seen pursuing me when I was in my 
nurse's arms on the evening of the charivari given to 

I had not yet seen the last of my humiliations. One 
day, when I had thrown mud against one of the window- 
panes of the class-room, they dressed me in servant's 
clothes, tied a blue apron around my waist, gave me a 
basin of water and a sponge, and, mounting me on a 
table, made me wash the window in the presence of all 
the boys. 

This brought me into ridicule, and did not tend to 
elevate me either in the estimation of my companions or 
in my own. 

Regarded by my school-fellows and by myself as a 
black sheep, I continued to wander about in the gloomy 
court-yard, m^re lonely than ever. 

When I received letters or presents from my native 
place, I fancied for an instant that I saw again my home, 
and I shed tears of poignant anguish. 

Often during the night, lying with wakeful eyes, I 
saw my father's house, the gardens, the wide plain dotted 
with fields of grain, and again I saw the dear ones there, 
and, like the swift winged butterfly, that, without paus- 
ing in its flight, hovers, now over this flower, now over 
that, my imagination spread its wings and flew swiftly 
from my father and my uncle to my brothers, from the 
servants to my playfellows, from the animals to the trees, 
from one familiar spot to another, rushing through the 
alleys, skimming along the ponds, and meeting with a 
smiling welcome everywhere, from the kindly eyes that 



lighted up the wrinkled face of my grandmother, to the 
motionless faces of the figures in the kitchen garden. 

But how swiftly the illusion vanished, when, in the 
morning light, I saw, through the little window of my 
room, the stone flames of the Military Hospital, and, a 
little beyond, the two towers of the ancient church of 
the Jesuits ! 

About this time a trunk was sent me from Courrieres, 
containing articles which I needed. I opened it, and it 
seemed as if a breath from my native place was wafted 
to me, bringing with it at once all the love and tender- 
ness and all the familiar scents of home. At the sight 
of the order with which those articles were arranged — the 
white shirt, among which loving hands had concealed 
bonbons, folded in a particular fashion — I felt myself 
shaken with quick sobs, and tears of grateful affection 
streamed from my eyes. When I got to the bottom of 
the trunk, I found there in a corner a scrap of paper, 
folded. It contained a Hard,* and bore these words, in 
little Emile's handwriting : " Jules, je te caule / " f 


But how quickly all my griefs and mortifications were 
forgotten when, on the first morning of the vacation, a 
ray of country sunshine came to waken me in my white 
bed, with its sheets feeling a little stiff with the fresh 
starch — when I heard again all the familiar sounds of 
home ! 

How small the house appeared to me, that I had 
thought so large ! 

* A coin equal in value to the fourth part of a cent, 
f Equivalent to " Jules, I send you my love." 



With what transports of affection I kissed all the be- 
loved faces ! How impatient I was to visit every corner 
of the house ! What good bread ! What delicious 
coffee ! Even the hair-cloth tabourets in the school- 
room appeared soft to me. As soon as I had seen 
everything, I chose for my special retreat an unfre- 
quented spot, a little room lighted by a single window 
that opened on the garden — the same window of which, 
some years before, I had broken the panes. 

When I entered this room a strong odor greeted my 
nostrils — an odor composed of divers smells, for it was in 
this place that our gardener kept his flower and vege- 
table seeds. But this mixture of smells, among which 
those of celery, shallot, and carrot predominated, in- 
spired me with no repugnance. 

Here I established my atelier, and amused myself by 
carving figures of peasants in soft stone, or by painting 
on wood with the juice of flowers and berries, such as 
the scabious and the mulberry. 

One day, I received a visit from a woman named 
Marie, who lived in our village and who earned a liveli- 
hood by painting weeping-willows on monumental urns, 
crosses for the cemetery, and ornamental sign-boards for 

On this occasion she had received an order for a 
sign-board, of which the decoration was to be of so com- 
plicated a character as to be beyond her skill, and she 
came to ask my assistance, which I promised her with- 
out hesitation, proud of this mark of confidence. 

While I cleared a space to work in, by pushing into 
the corners the gardening implements and the bundles 
of willow and osier with which Frise's room was encum- 
bered, Marie went to bring the board — a large panel 
rounded at the top — and her brushes and color-pots. 

We placed the panel on a table, resting it against the 


cases of the herbal, and I soon discovered that the art- 
ist stood, indeed, in great need of assistance. 

She had begun, by writing around the top of the 
panel the title of the subject, " The Society of Associated 

As these friends were a society, it followed that they 
were associated. I drew her attention to this pleonasm 
in the first place. 

In addition to this it was difficult to distinguish the 
friends in Marie's confused daub. One could make out 
a blue sky with white clouds shaped like corkscrews in 
it, and a column supporting a vase of flowers, flanked 
by two aloes, but the figures of the friends bore no like- 
ness to anything whatever. 

I rubbed out all this mess, and asked Marie to go 
away and leave me to my inspiration. 

I was filled with emotion. These little pots of chrome, 
vermilion, and Prussian blue, transported me with joy. 

But how set about the composition of the picture ? 
I thought for a long time in vain. Then I had recourse 
to the Magasin Pittoresque. My uncle had been a sub- 
scriber to it ever since its establishment, and, after the 
engravings in the loft, nothing had contributed more to 
inspire me with a love for art than this periodical, 
founded by Eduard Charton, to whom I have since had 
occasion to manifest my gratitude. 

I chose a scene after Giraud, representing some jolly 
French Guards, and I copied the composition of it, chang- 
ing the costume of the figures for that of our peasants. 

Marie was satisfied with my work. 

This must have still smacked somewhat of the school 
of Fremy. A certain peasant in knee-breeches of 
chrome-yellow and an apple-green coat, might, so far as 
coloring was concerned, contest the palm with the 
Chinese of the pigeon-house. 



The poor Chinese ! Let me say here, before leaving 
him forever, that he had fallen greatly from his former 

The catastrophe I have before spoken of had already 
happened. The plainest rules of common sense forbade 
the restoration to their former position of his airy tem- 
ple, his extinguisher hung with bells, or his ball. Even 
the landscape had suffered considerably. 

The figure itself, however, continued to smoke its 
long pipe as philosophically as before, and showed as 
much zeal as ever in pointing out the quarter from which 
the wind blew. 

As for my sign, I never saw it again. My brothers 
came across it one day, in one of their excursions, hang- 
ing over the door of a wine-shop in a village whose 
name I have forgotten. But the sun, the frost, and the 
rain had greatly softened its barbarous realism. 

Such was my first picture. 

And the next ? This had its existence only in my 
imagination. I have often seen it, always the same, in 
my dreams, hanging in the shadows of some village 
sacristy, full of a spirit of simple devotion. 

It is a triptych, the Holy Trinity in the center, the 
Virgin and angels at the sides. 

Which of these angels is it who has led me a hundred 
times in sleep into that dusty sacristy, where thou, pict- 
ure of my dreams, a dream thyself, reposest? And I 
tremble with joy when I see thee always in the same 
place, always radiant with divine love ! 



It was in 1840, during one of my vacations, that we 
took dancing-lessons in the large, unfinished parlor 
which I have so often mentioned. 

My uncle, who desired to neglect nothing that might 
contribute to form our manners, had found a skillful pro- 
fessor for us — a retired soldier who, in the intervals of 
leisure left him by his military duties, had caused him- 
self to be initiated into the mysteries of Terpsichore. 

His household was established on a very simple foot- 
ing, and he himself carried in a wheelbarrow the manure 
with which he enriched his bit of land. He stopped at 
our house during the expeditions necessitated by the re- 
quirements of his modest gardening. 

And I can assure you that on these occasions he did 
not exhale the perfume of the rose. I can still see his 
large feet in their heavy shoes dropping manure with 
every step he took, and his legs covered by linen trousers 
stained with suspicious-looking patches, executing their 
pigeon-wings and capers. 

Ah ! simple days ! His wheelbarrow, with the cask 
containing the manure, would remain standing before our 
front door until the lesson was ended, without any fear 
of its being stolen. 

I do not know whether this manner of learning danc- 
ing has contributed to the feeling, but from that time I 
have always entertained a profound indifference for that 
graceful art. 

I remember also that during this same vacation, find- 
ing myself alone one day in my uncle's study, and ran- 
sacking his book-case as in former times, I opened the 
portfolio in which he was accustomed to keep copies of 
his own and other letters which were of any importance. 


What was my astonishment in turning over one of the 
leaves to find — guess what? I might give you a hundred 
chances, and you would never guess it — to find the Abb6 
Coco !— the Abbe Coco, carefully fastened there with a 

I felt as if I had fallen from the clouds ! For nothing 
in the world would I have dared to speak to my uncle 
of this abominable piece of irreverence and he knew all 
about it, and he had never said a word to me ! And he 
preserved among his interesting papers the impious cari- 
cature that had drawn upon me the thunders of the 
clergy ! 

Counting on the indulgence of my father and uncle, 
I resolved to relate the whole incident to them at dinner. 
Scarcely had I pronounced the name of the Abbe Coco, 
when they both burst into a loud laugh, but their merri- 
ment changed to indignation when I reached the end of 
the story. 

" Why did you not tell us of this before ? " they said. 
'* Do you think we would have left you a moment longer 
in that abominable place ? " And then I made a gen- 
eral confession. I told them of my mortification, my iso- 
lation, my troubles, the incessant espionage from which I 
had suffered, without forgetting to mention the rare 
moments of unalloyed delight in the drawing-class. 

My father and uncle decided at once to place me in 
the College of Douai. I need not say with what joy I 
heard of this resolution. I was to pass at Douai three 
comparatively happy years. My entrance to the college 
was not a brilliant one. My rustic appearance and the 
manners I had acquired in the seminary, of which I had 
not yet been able to rid myself completely, made me the 
subject of many a jest. I thought for a moment that my 
troubles were all going to begin over again, but quite 
another spirit reigned here. Here was no espionage. 



Freedom of action was not interfered with, and liberty 
in the choice of friends was allowed. 

When I had exchanged a few vigorous blows with the 
most quarrelsome of the boys, I had no longer anything 
to fear. I loved my companions and they loved me. 
The yard here was larger and a part of it was planted 
with trees ; and the buildings, less elevated than those 
around the seminary, allowed the sunshine freer en- 
trance ; while in place of the Military Hospital the muse- 
um presented to us its wide high gable to send our 
balls against. 

And the uniform, with its shining brass buttons, and 
the boots, and the strapped trousers, and the towns-peo- 
ple looking at us with admiring glance as we passed by 
in line, our steps resounding on the pavement ; and the 
band of music ; and the lyre which I proudly displayed 
embroidered in gold on the collar of my coat ! — and the 
loud-sounding drum, in place of the plaintive bell ; and, 
above all, Art ! 

We occupied the ancient building of the Abbey d'An- 
chin. Like a cuckoo bringing up its fledglings in a ring- 
dove's nest, the state had there established its college. 
The chapel, formerly as large as a church, had been di- 
vided. One part of it was still devoted to worship, and 
the other to profane uses — -some of the dormitories and 
the hall of design being there. 

This vast hall, with its thick walls and heavy pillars, 
was well calculated to inspire respect. I experienced 
a profound emotion whenever I entered it. 

There, as in the seminary, were displayed eyes, noses, 
and mouths, small, medium-sized and large faces ; aca- 
demic figures. There I beheld you again, Moses, Mor- 
decai, and Scipio, and you also, young Raphaelesque 
girls, with your ravishing faces. But my ambition went 
further than this now — as far as the hall of casts, that 



could be seen beyond, smaller than this one, and silent 
as a sanctuary. I walked straight thither with a reso- 
lute step. 

When I entered it I was seized with a sort of religious 
awe, and I began to tremble in every limb. I found 
myself in the presence of Euripides, of Solon, of Plato, 
of Homer ; of the Laocoon, writhing forever in the ser- 
pent's folds ; and of Niobe, forever sending up to heaven 
from her sightless eyes looks of inconsolable grief. 

A moment afterward the drawing-master entered the 
room. He was a short, robust old man, brusque and 
frank in his manner. He looked at me with amazement. 
iC What are you doing here, Baptist ? " he said to me. 
" You are a new-comer. Go sit down yonder before the 
eyes and the noses." 

I had been told beforehand how I must address him, 
and I stammered, " I beg of you, papa, to let me prac- 
tice here." " Have you drawn from the cast ? " u No, 
but I have made the portraits of some of my school- 
fellows." " Very well ; sit down there ; we shall see." 
And he placed before me the head of one of the sons of 
Laocoon. The trial resulted favorably, and I remained 
in the class. 

This may be thought a strange specimen of conver- 
sation between pupil and professor, and yet I have given 
it word for word as it took place. This excellent old 
man addressed all his pupils in the second person, singu- 
lar, called them all alike " Baptist," and all the pupils 
addressed him in the second person, singular, and called 
him *' papa." 

My fellow-pupils and the inhabitants of Douai of my 
time will remember Father Wallet. 

We loved him dearly, and the familiarity of which I 
have given an example detracted nothing from the respect 
with which he inspired us. At times he pretended to 



be terribly angry, and dealt about blows right and left, 
which never hit any one. 

I think he was not without some genius, which he 
made but little use of. He was at once a disciple of 
David and of the Romantic School of Art. He organ- 
ized a historical fete which was much talked of in the 
place, the entrance to Douai of Philip the Good. These 
celebrations of historical events were then in fashion. 
My father and my uncle, a year later, represented in our 
village the visit of Philip II, King of Spain, to Jean de 
Montmorenci, the Lord of Courrieres, who sleeps with 
folded hands on his tomb in the church there. This 
celebration was a complete success. The brilliant and 
well-drilled procession which traversed the streets of our 
poor commune called forth the acclamations of the nu- 
merous citizens of Douai, Lille, and Arras, who had 
come there to laugh at it. 

Father Wallet watched it from one of the windows 
of our house, and Philip II was very proud of earning 
his applause. 

As for me, I was unable, much to my regret, to see 
this cavalcade, the strict rules of the college not permit- 
ting it. I consoled myself, however, by playing with my 

A word in regard to these latter. 

Some of them, among others General Cary, General 
Cornat, General Delbecque, and Rene Goblet, one of 
our most learned statesmen, now occupy brilliant posi- 
tions ; but how many names are missing from the roll ! 
The estimable Eduard Blavier, who died Inspector-Gen- 
eral of Telegraphs ; Louis Duhem, a tender soul meant 
by nature for a poet, and whom chance made a custom- 
house officer ; and Louis Bauchet, whom I met in Paris, 
where he had entered on a brilliant career, soon alas J 
to be cut short by death. Already distinguished as a 



surgeon, he died a victim to duty, at the age of thirty- 
nine, from the results of a wound received at the dis- 
secting-table. At his funeral I saw Velpeau, who loved 
him like a son, weeping unrestrainedly. He had mar- 
ried a young girl of Lower Brittany, connected by mar- 
riage with my family, who has consecrated her life to 
the worship of his memory. 


It was about this time that I began to acquire a taste 
for poetry. 

I was then reading Racine and La Fontaine. I re- 
member a line of Athalie that to many people may seem 
to possess no special merit, but which enchanted me : 

" Et du temple d£ja l'aube blanchit le faite." 

It captivated my ear by its melody and called up be- 
fore my mind a charming twilight scene bathed in a soft 
and tender light. 

Then I made an attempt at rhyming. 

One day I hurried carelessly through my Latin 
verses, and then wrote below a translation of them into 
French verse. 

The professor seemed amused at first ; he read aloud 
to the class my unfortunate attempt at poetry, accentu- 
ating comically every false rhyme, and ended by impos- 
ing on me a double punishment for the faults in my 
Latin composition. 

Later on, fancying myself in love, I gave expression 
to my sentimental sorrows in verse. 

At fifteen my verses were despairing and pessimistic, 
and shortly afterward I sang the loss of all my illusions. 


Have I the right, then, to smile at the young poets of 
twenty whom we see springing up on all sides around 
us ? 

My father, after the death of the Duke of Duras and 
the sale of the forest of Labroye, entered into partner- 
ship with two natives of Lille, for the purpose of buying 
the forest of the xAmerois at Muno, in the Belgian Ar- 
dennes. He had been unable to conquer his passion for 

He lodged, while there, at the house of some excel- 
lent people, for whom he soon conceived a friendship. 

One day he brought back with him to Courrieres one 
of the sons, named Hippolite. This boy, about my own 
age, but quicker and more precocious in some respects 
than I was, spent with us the vacation preceding my ad- 
mission to the College of Douai. 

He often spoke to me of his native place and of a 
friend whom he had known from childhood, named 
Florentine, and whom he loved like a sister. The name 
of this young girl, continually sounding in my ears, gave 
rise to many a vague revery. " You shall see how pretty 
she is. You must fall in love with her," he would con- 
stantly say to me. 

And, without my ever having seen her, she filled my 
thoughts. Whenever Hippolite wanted to ask a favor 
from me, he asked it in Florentine's name, and I was 
sure to grant it. 

As for him, he was in love w r ith a young lady who 
wore velvet bodices and who rode on horseback. 

Nearly two years had passed since that time, how- 
ever. Hippolite had gone back to Muno, and I had 
quite forgotten this romantic fancy. 

During my vacation in 1842 (I was then fifteen) it 
was arranged that we were all to spend a month at 


We went there accordingly. 

The parents of Hippolite lived about three quarters 
of a mile distant from the city, in a house standing by 
itself by the roadside, whose front windows looked out 
on green fields, through which ran a clear brook shaded 
by willows and frequented by trout and crabs. The 
house was sheltered at the back by the Monti, a hill 
covered with brush-wood and pink and white heather. 
To the left was a kitchen-garden. In front were a leafy 
bower and a row of hollyhocks. This sylvan and attract- 
ive abode was called " The Hermitage." 

The first person to meet us on our arrival was Made- 
moiselle Elisa, the eldest sister of Hippolite. She was a 
tall, slender girl of twenty- two, with a queenly air. She 
was very dark, with pale-blue eyes, and hair black as the 
raven's wing, falling down her cheeks in the English 
fashion. Her father, a native of Provence, had given 
her her southern beauty, while her eyes were as blue as 
the periwinkles of the Ardennes. 

It was the eve of the Kermesse of Muno. Hearing 
us coming, Elisa had left the bakehouse, where she was 
making tarts, and a bit of the dough had remained cling- 
ing to her eyebrow. 

Let me say here that a noble and tender heart beat 
under her broad breast. She is now old, her jet-black 
locks are white with the snows of age, and profound re- 
spect has taken the place of the admiration she then ex- 

This noble woman has never wished to marry, so that 
she might be able to dedicate her life to the children of 
her brothers and sisters, with an unselfish devotion of 
which she alone seems to be unconscious. 

We were fatigued with our journey, and went to bed 
immediately after supper. 

In the morning, when I saw from my window the sun 


brightening the Monti, and lighting up the white mists 
that hung along its sides, I got out of bed quickly. 

I went down to the kitchen and was chatting with 
Elisa, who was occupied in some household task, when 
the door at the foot of the staircase opened and a young 
girl made her appearance. 

" Good-morning, Florentine," said Elisa. 

Florentine ! It was she ! 

I can not describe the happiness that filled my heart 
when I heard this name, that had formed the subject of 
so many dreams. 

The evening before, after we had retired, she and her 
mother had come from Carignan, where they lived, and 
she had slept in the room adjoining mine. 

She did not possess the brilliant beauty of Elisa. 
She was about sixteen, and was short and slender, with 
bright chestnut hair, brown eyes, and a pale, clear com- 
plexion, like a tea-rose. 

But by a sort of hallucination she appeared to me 
clothed with supernatural splendor. 

Elisa, taking a basket, said to her, " Let us go gath- 
er some heather for the chimney-piece and the dinner- 

Behold us then, crossing the Monti, which was 
wrapped in white mists produced by the evaporation 
of the dew — silvery mists that the sun, darting his rays 
through the forest trees, pierced with a thousand fiery 

Elisa was a charming picture, seen in the softened 
brilliancy of the morning light, with her black hair, 
pearly with dew, her yellow handkerchief, and her gay 
spirits, to which she gave vent in snatches of merry 

But I had eyes only for Florentine, whose blue robe 
gleamed in the sunshine that lingered on its hem, while 



her bright hair was surrounded by an aureole of gold ; 
and the zenith sent down its pure light to caress her 
pearly neck, charmingly shaded by the down on the 

She went along gathering the heather, and I followed 
enraptured, and I thought myself desperately in love. 

One may be in love without knowing it. With me 
the contrary was the case. I mistook for love the first 
ardors of an impatient imagination. 

This fancy was to vanish like the golden clouds of 
dawn, bright harbingers of the sun that is soon to rise, 
but it has left with me a passion for pink and white 
heather, and their innumerable little bells seem to me 
since then to vibrate with a thrill of love. 


One evening, during the same vacation, my brothers 
and I were seated around the lamp in the dining-room, 
when a stranger entered, bringing a letter of introduction 
from M. D , the notary, of whom I have spoken. 

He was enveloped in a large black cloak, and wore a 
long thick beard, something which we had never before 
seen. He had strongly marked features, the nose straight 
and slightly turned up at the end, the arch of the brow 
very prominent, and heavy eyebrows, raised toward the 
temples, shading deep-blue eyes. His handsome face 
was browned by the sun. 

This sudden apparition strongly awakened our curi- 

At first sight, our visitor was not unlike the picture 

I had formed in my mind of a bandit-chief. D 's 

letter informed us that this gentleman was M. Felix de 



Vigne, a painter, and a professor in the Academy in 
Ghent. A learned archaeologist, he had just published 
his " Painter's Vade Mecum," a collection of the cos- 
tumes and weapons of the middle ages, and was now 
preparing a work on the trade corporations of Flan- 

He had heard that my uncle possessed a work on 
French costumes of divers epochs, and he had come to 
request his permission to examine it. 

My uncle went to fetch the four volumes of which 
this work consisted. 

We thought these books superb. We had often 
looked at their beautiful colored plates, resplendent 
with gold and silver, and had not a doubt of the ad- 
miration they were going to awaken in our visitor's 

De Vigne opened the first volume at random, and 
his glance fell on a picture of Charlemagne in the cos- 
tume of the fifteenth century. 

He smiled, closed the book, and after a short con- 
versation, excused himself and took his leave. 

A painter ! He was a painter ! Ah ! if I had only 
dared to go up to him, and tell him of my passion for 
art, perhaps he might have tried to influence my father 
and my uncle. But a stupid bashfulness had kept my 
mouth closed. 

And he was gone ! 

I returned sorrowfully to the college, where Floren- 
tine and De Vigne's visit were the subject of my reveries. 
The figure of the painter presented itself to my romantic 
imagination clothed with ideal attributes, and grew more 
and more somber as time passed on. 

I forgot my sadness for the time in the drawing-class, 
when I saw again the Laocoons, the Caracallar, and the 
Niobes, those old friends with their sightless eyes. 



During the vacation of 1843, my uncle, returning 
from a journey to Lille, found himself by chance seated 
beside De Vigne in the famous coach of Maximilian 
Robespierre, whom we already know. 

They had here an opportunity to become better ac- 
quainted with each other. My uncle spoke of me to 
the painter, and to attract him to our house he gave him 
an order for a likeness of himself. 

De Vigne came accordingly, one day, with his box 
of colors and his canvas, and it may easily be imagined 
what an event this was for us. There were perfumed 
essences, delicate oils gleaming in the light, and beauti- 
ful little bladders filled with paints of various colors. 

With what devout attention I followed the different 
stages of his work — the outlining, the rough draught in 
red crayon, the sketch that changed with every stroke of 
the brush ! 

And the painter himself, too, who, when I first saw 
him, had realized my idea of a bandit, was wonderfully 
transformed by the light of day. 

He grew almost genial, and, notwithstanding his ter- 
rible beard, was much less imposing in appearance than 
were the figures in the garden after Fremy had re- 
painted them. 

I showed my sketches to De Vigne. He was not 
greatly pleased with my drawings from the cast, although 
they had taken the first prize in the college. 

He was more interested in my portraits in pencil and 
my landscapes copied from nature. 

He proposed to my father and uncle to send me to 
him on trial, promising to give a definite opinion regard- 
ing me after I had studied three months under his in- 

Oh, joy ! my uncle and my father consented ! 

I went to my room, and, seizing my class-books, threw 


them up to the ceiling twenty times in succession, until 
the oldest of them fell in tatters. 

Then I threw into the fire the task assigned me for 
the vacation, and which I had scarcely begun. This 
auto-da-ft was hardly accomplished, when I received a 
letter from a school-fellow asking me to lend him this 
task in order to copy it. 

In what triumphant terms I answered him that hence- 
forth the college and I had no connection with each 
other, and that I was going to enter the Royal Academy 
at Ghent ! 

I arrived in that city on the 15 th of October, 1843. 


There are many humble painters who might have 
become great artists if Fate had placed them in circum- 
stances more favorable to the development of their natu- 
ral gifts, but who die unknown to the general public, 
their merits recognized only by a limited circle. 

High-minded and conscientious in the performance 
of their obligations, seeing themselves in the necessity 
of providing for the wants of the family, and devoted to 
their domestic duties, they are not free to enter the 
arena where alone fame is to be won. 

Their first pictures have had some success ; the be- 
ginning was full of promise. They had had their dreams 
of a glorious future. 

But they had neglected to take into account the no- 
ble weaknesses of their nature. 

Obstacles placed there by their affections are to de- 
tain them on the road to fame at every step. 

And in the unselfishness of their hearts they will see 



their rivals attain fame and fortune without a pang of 
envy, while they still continue to persevere in their hum- 
ble labors. 

Their efforts, however, are not altogether fruitless. 
With comparatively easy means, hours of leisure come. 

The nest is built. The new house has a more sunny 
outlook. A broader stream of light illumines the studio, 
larger than the other one. 

The talents which had caused their first paintings to 
be admired, stifled for a time, reappear in works pro- 
duced in a more vivifying atmosphere, and the artist be- 
gins to attract attention. 

A ray of fame may even fall upon his brow. 

He is able to give himself up to studies long inter- 
rupted. Real progress, surprising at his age, leads to 
fresh successes. He has still a long future before him. 

It will be only a dream. All those emotions, all this 
ardor, like the warmth of a St. Martin's summer, only 
serve to shatter still more an organization enfeebled by 
long-continued vigils, and the artist breaks down while 
apparently in the full enjoyment of health. 

Such might have been the history of Felix de Vigne. 


Narrow and deep, with its gable dating from the 
sixteenth century, and its long corridor leading to the 
different apartments, to the small yard, and to the gar- 
den, the house in which De Vigne lived in 1843, number 
8, Rue de la Line, was situated in one of the quietest 
quarters of the city. 

I was cordially received there. 

Ghent impressed me greatly. I had not at that time 



seen Paris. In a journey I had made the preceding 
year I had caught a hasty glimpse of the principal cities 
of Belgium — Liege, Louvain, Antwerp, Ostend, and Brus- 
sels — where, for the first time, I visited an exhibition of 
paintings, for me the most glorious of sights. 

I can still see all the beautiful colors, more beautiful 
even than those of Nature itself, of those lovely com- 
plexions so smooth and rosy ; of those heavenly blue 
eyes, of those military epaulets so brilliant that it was 
almost a miracle that they could have been made to 
shine so brightly ; and those large oxen that look at you 
with their melancholy eyes, and those well-combed sheep, 
and those horseshoes that looked so real, hidden in the 
corners of the pictures ; and those drops of water that 
tremble on the thistles ; and, in fine, of all those beau- 
tiful yellows, brilliant greens, and flaming reds. How 
dingy the pictures of Rubens, which I had seen at Ant- 
werp, notwithstanding the profound admiration I enter- 
tained for them, appeared to me beside these marvels ! 

The city of Ghent seemed to me magnificent. I 
felt proud and happy to be able to walk at will through 
the streets of this Flemish Venice, with its innumerable 
bridges, its old wharves crowded with merchandise, its 
ancient houses, some of which look down upon you 
from the middle ages, and whose trembling images are 
reflected from the waters of the canals, where glide 
countless boats. 

I never tired of looking at all these sights. I loved 
its monuments, its Hotel de Ville, in the flamboyant 
style, its court-house, and its Gothic churches, with 
their chapels, in the style of the Renaissance, where, 
surrounded by the somber grandeur cf the Spaniards, 
are old pictures of the early Flemish school, at once 
sensual and devout. 

The school of Ghent, which prides itself on having 


given to the world the brothers Van Eyck, the Gaspards 
de Crayer, and the Rooses, had greatly declined since 
the time in which De Vigne had attained his first suc- 

A pupil of Paclinck, who had followed at Brussels, 
in consonance with the bent of his genius, in the steps 
of his master David, whose fame was then on the wane, 
De Vigne had spent some time in Paris whence he re- 
turned to his native city, his mind confused by con- 
tradictory teachings. On the one hand, he had learned 
to strive after a grace of form like that of the Apollo 
Belvedere, the Diana, and the Venus di Medicis, while 
he was fascinated by the brilliancy of coloring of the 
Romantic school on the other. 

The two currents of opinion which divided Paris, 
flowing in opposite directions, the one toward Ingres, 
the other toward Delacroix, united in Belgium in a 
bastard school of art, formed of an expressionless eclec- 

Louis Gallait himself, the best painter of this school, 
was a compound of Deveria, Paul Delaroche, and Robert- 

The bitter dissension which caused these visions, 
concerned, for the most part, insignificant details. I 
have never seen mediocrity arouse more acrimonious dis- 

Antwerp believed that the glorious days of Rubens 
had returned. 

They thought they had rediscovered the coloring of 
the ancients, while uniting with it a grace of form copied 
from the antique. 

They imitated the painters of the old Flemish school, 
thinking they were free from their heaviness of style, 
and had improved, by exaggerating it, the splendor of 
their coloring. 



They sought inspiration in the inferior works of 
Rubens, those most resembling porcelain, as being the 
most beautiful, and finding there glowing tints, they 
learned to mix the smooth with the rough style of paint- 
ing to obtain transparency in the flesh-tints, so that all 
the faces had the appearance of being flayed on one 
side. A horrible sight ! 

Add to this, in the case of the historical painters, a 
sort of insipid sentimentalism, which showed itself in 
their pictures in tearful eyes and gaping mouths, and, in 
the case of those who drew their inspiration from the 
old Dutch painters, a sort of peurile jocoseness. The 
public flocked to the exhibitions without knowing any- 
thing about art. 

They went into raptures over the childish tricks of 
still-life deception. 

They spoke only of " skillfulness of execution," 
"transparency," and " warm tones." 

The landscape-painters had a regular system of de- 
grading their backgrounds which they threw back, 
mechanically, painting them in bluer and bluer tones, 
until they at last faded into the sky. I have seen a 
landscape-painter work during a whole sitting at a little 
bit of his picture, while the rest of the canvas was cov- 
ered with a curtain, in order to protect it from the dust. 
Why consider the general effect of the picture ? 

What they failed to study was the sunlight, with its 
solemn splendors and its thousand caprices ; the rela- 
tion of the parts to the whole, and variety of effect and 
execution, according to the sentiment of the subject. 

I hope the Belgians, and especially the people of 
Ghent, will forgive me for the frankness of these words. 
They have made great progress since that time, and 
their enlightened painters and connoisseurs, far from 
being offended by them, share my opinions. 



When I arrived in Ghent, I found it still affected by 
the impression produced by the Grand Triennial Exhi- 
bition of the Fine Arts, which had taken place there the 
preceding year, and in which Verboeckhoven had won 
laurels from the artists and connoisseurs of Ghent. 

Louis Gallait had exhibited there his large painting, 
" The Abdication of Charles V." Universally admired, 
he was even thought by many to be the equal of 

Immediately after him, in the estimation of the public, 
came Wappers and De Keyser. These were the trinity 
that presided over the Belgian school of art. 

Opinions were divided, however, regarding the com- 
parative merit of these two latter artists, and the slight 
differences between them were made the subject of bitter 
disputes. " What boldness, what admirable coloring in 
the paintings of Wappers ! " the partisans of the former 
would say ; to which those of the latter would respond, 
" What delicacy of form, what feeling, in the paintings 
of De Keyser ! " 

Alas ! hardly any one ever mentions the name of 
either of them now. 

At this same exhibition De Vigne had attained a 
comparative success with a triptych, " The Three Ages 
of Woman," a picture afterward purchased by the 

The Society of Fine Arts also held a small exhibition 
every year, of the works of local artists, where I had an 
opportunity of seeing specimens of the crude style of 
art. I must confess that I admired some among them 
that I would now think detestable. 

How charming some of those pictures seemed to my 


simple and ignorant eyes ! I occasionally meet with 
pictures like them now, in walking through the museums 
of small towns. They repose there, antiquated, mediocre, 
dingy, sticky, dull, and cracked in curves, as happens, 
why I know not, to provincial pictures. 

How have you fallen in my estimation, O painters 
who then enchanted me — Gernaert, Van Maldeghem, 
and you, Van Schendel, who lighted up with such vivid 
flames the ruddy countenances of women selling vege- 
tables, in dark and musty markets, where a workman 
would occasionally be seen wheeling his barrow, his face 
illuminated by a wonderful ray of moonlight, reflected 
from the shining peak of his cap ! 

Such was the environment in which De Vigne lived. 

One of the first pictures which I saw him paint was 
the portrait of some great lady visiting Hemmling to 
dress the shrine of St. Ursula. She was represented 
wearing the hennin, pointed shoes, and a robe of cloth- 

De Vigne was remarkable for the graceful folds of 
his draperies and the skill with which he painted the 
lights reflected from precious stones and the gleam of 

He painted this picture by fits and starts, constantly 
interrupted by his lessons, and having to take off and 
put on again continually his green-and-black Scotch 
plaid dressing-gown, a style of garment which De 
Winne and I had also adopted for our working hours. 

This is the first time I have had occasion to mention 
LieVin de Winne, an artist who was to occupy, later, a 
conspicuous place among the painters of the Belgian 
school, and whom I was soon to love like a brother. 
Nothing at this time foretold the brilliant future that 
awaited him. 

For the student of those days was far from being the 


great artist whose gayety of spirits made him, later on, 
so delightful a companion. 

He did not then wear his blonde hair in those long 
locks that he has since adopted, and which he throws 
back with the gesture so familiar to his friends ; his face 
was not then, as later, rosy and lighted up by an ex- 
pression that made it seem beautiful, vaguely recalling 
that of Van Dyck. No, his face was thin, his air mel- 
ancholy, his head bent. With his long nose and short, 
reddish hair, he seemed almost ugly. He was shy in 
the extreme, disposed to gloom, painting in silence, and 
at times sensitively morbid. 

For, although grateful and affectionate by nature, 
his pride caused him to suffer keenly ; he had, too, met 
with many disappointments in his affections. 

Brought up in easy circumstances, after seeing his 
father and two lovely young sisters die, he had witnessed 
the ruin of his family. 

At twenty years of age he found himself penniless 
and under the necessity of providing for two other 
sisters, who were then in the convent completing their 

The eldest of his brothers had gone away, no one 
knew where ; another was earning a livelihood in Paris. 
His family, at one time consisting of eleven members, 
had been dispersed by misfortune or death. His mother 
had been a woman of great piety, and his elder sisters 
had died, it was said, like saints. Their names, Theresa 
and Monica, seemed to predestine them to mysticism. 

Such was the situation of the unfortunate Lievin. 

Felix de Vigne, who for some time had aided him 
with his advice, profoundly touched by these unmerited 
misfortunes, received him into the bosom of his family, 
taught him his art, and was henceforward a second 
father to him. 



On my entrance to the studio, my attention was im- 
mediately attracted by one of the students, whose im- 
passive countenance, adorned by a red beard, was sur- 
mounted by a high black woolen cap. I watched him 
while he painted, He tried all the tints on his palette, 
which was covered with a countless number of little 
hillocks of paint. He turned round at my entrance and 
said to me, "Painting is a work that requires patience." 
He gave good proof of this. 

The picture on which he was working represented 
the painter Breughel, the elder, who was accustomed to 
keep count of the lies his servant told him by cutting a 
notch in a stick, for every lie making one of these 

The legend says that he had promised to marry her 
if, at the end of a certain time, the stick were not com- 
pletely covered with notches ! What was the end of the 
story ? 

The pendent to this picture, sketched in chalk, on 
the opposite wall, answered the question. It repre- 
sented Breughel imitating the example of Abraham with 
regard to Hagar, and sending away the unhappy serv- 
ant, who was drying her tears in the corner of her apron. 
He is pointing angrily to the stick, completely covered 
with notches. 

There worked with us also a young French girl, 

Mademoiselle I. T . She had agreeable manners, 

was somewhat of a coquette, and had a frank and care- 
less disposition. She was the daughter of a retired sol- 
dier of the Empire, who lived in Ghent. 

She had but little talent for painting, and we augured 
an obscure future for her. She was destined, however, 
to an unhappy celebrity. Fifteen or sixteen years later 
the public was to hear of her, when in the judicial rec- 
ords these terrible words appeared : "In a bottle on 


the table of the praetorium are the entrails of the 
victim ! " for she was the unfortunate Madame de Pauw, 
who was poisoned by a well-known physician, con- 
demned to expiate his crime on the scaffold. 

Poor De Winne, melancholy enough already, having 
committed the folly of falling in love with Mademoiselle 

T , grew so gloomy that we called him " Cousin Brou- 

illard," * the name of one of Paul de Kock's characters. 

I can still hear him sighing. 

I had already begun to like my new fellow-student, 
and I did my best to console him for his sorrows. 

He received my friendly attempts at consolation 
with gratitude. It was in vain that I tried to make him 
share in my amusements, however, which were some- 
what expensive ; it was in vain that I talked to him of 
my raptures at the theatre on Sundays, where Albert,{ 
the wonderful tenor, was singing to applauding crowds. 
I could never prevail upon him to accompany me. 

The only diversions he permitted himself were our 
excursions into the country. 

Now that you are no more, friend Lievin, I can not 
recall those excursions without deep emotion. 

We would turn our canvases toward the wall, clean 
our palettes and our brushes, and set off in the sunny 
afternoon — sunny with the sunshine of youth, that will 
shine for us never again ! 

We would walk on, admiring every new sight, and 
talking of those nothings that make the tears start when 
we recall them later on, until we came to the city gate, 
where, under the blue sky, the plain stretched far away 
before us. 

On we walked. In the tea-gardens, under leafy bow- 
ers, stood tables of worm-eaten wood. Hunger, the 

* Fog. f This tenor is still well remembered in Belgium. 



pleasant hunger of youth, soon made itself felt. Oh, 
the savory repasts, washed down with Flemish beer ! 

We confided all the tender secrets of our hearts to 
each other ; the melancholy Lievin grew gay for a mo- 
ment. And, returning, we would watch the sun sink, 
large and red, behind the grassy plains. 

Next day we would resume our painting. 

Lievin ground his colors himself, and would paint 
some banner for a procession, or some Oriental picture 
for the convent where his sisters were, or some weeping 
Virgin dressed in a white satin robe, with a mantle of 
Prussian blue showing against the eternal yellow back- 
ground we knew so well ; for he had a number of pious 
patrons. And then he would paint little pictures whose 
subjects alone are sufficient evidence of their innocent 
character — An Old Man Skinning an Eel, An Old 
Woman Grinding her Coffee, A Jew Selling Trinkets, 
Rose and Violet, The First Communion Postponed. 

Who would have divined, in these puerile creations, 
the touch of the artist, at once vigorous and tender, who 
was one day to depict with so much skill every emotion 
of the human countenance ? 

Meanwhile, we rallied him on his melancholy, and 
tried to enliven him a little. 

Sometimes he would whistle while he painted, and 
whistle discordantly — not because he had ro ear for 
music, but through absent-mindedness, habit making 
him always return to his favorite airs, " The Little Flower 
of the Meadows," and " Yes, Monsieur," a silly song then 
in vogue. 

As for Felix De Vigne, he sang agreeably, accompa- 
nying himself on the guitar. Moved by the sounds of 
this sentimental instrument, De Winne would cast more 

languishing glances than ever at Mademoiselle T , 

and redouble his sighs. 




In the evening we went to the Academy. 

A new director was endeavoring to raise it from the 
state of decadence into which his predecessors, men 
without either energy or talent, had allowed it to fall. 

His name was Vanderhaert, and he was the brother- 
in-law of our great sculptor, Rude. 

A mediocre painter, but a skillful draughtsman, he 
threw a vast amount of energy into his teaching. He 
explained with great clearness the play of the muscles, 
the planes and the different angles on which forms, even 
the most rounded, are constructed. 

He had an enthusiastic admiration for the best works 
of the old masters, and his ardor, which was contagious, 
had a very beneficial effect upon us. 

De Vigne was also a professor in the Academy, but, 
as he was very modest, one of the lower classes was as- 
signed to him ; and in this way he was often imposed 
upon. He taught also at the Athenaeum, and gave pri- 
vate lessons besides. What time remained for his art? 
But he must live, and he had his children to bring up. 

Notwithstanding all this, he was cheerful. 

He sometimes worked until midnight on the plates 
for his works, which he himself engraved. 

In 1849, when the grand historical/^, which we have 
mentioned, took place in Ghent — a /?& still remembered 
in the country — and which outshone everything of the 
kind ever attempted before, he was the real organizer of 
the pageant. He not only organized it, but he designed 
all the costumes and planned the effects himself. For 
whole weeks his studio was transformed into a sewing- 
room. When he sent the account of the expense in- 
curred to the authorities of the city, he was too modest 



to include the fee for his own services. It was not per- 
ceived, but he never mentioned the matter to any one 
outside his family. 

The life at this household was mildly austere. Each 
one pursued his occupation in silence. Every evening 
Elodie, Edmond, Jules, and later on Georges, before 
going to bed would come and ask their father's bless- 
ing, which he would bestow upon them in the episco- 
pal fashion, making the sign of the cross on their fore- 
heads with his thumb. 

A recent loss, the death of two charming children, 
Eleonore and Felix, both about four years old, made 
this household still more gloomy. 

Their mother, an estimable woman, was the daugh- 
ter of Philippe Ave, who had gained the first prize for 
the violin at the Conservatory of Paris. 

He was a native of Hondscott in France, and his 
death took place in Ghent, where he had established 
himself shortly after his marriage. 

In this house I felt as if I were among my own fam- 
ily, and I had a strong attachment for the children, who 
reciprocated my affection. 

The eldest, Elodie, was a gentle child, in whose blue 
eyes, shaded by long, silken lashes, there already shone 
a mysterious charm. She went about the house silent- 
ly, gliding rather than walking. She held her fragile 
figure thrown slightly backward, and her delicately out- 
lined face, resembling that of one of the angels in a 
Gothic cathedral, inclined forward, as if bending un- 
der the weight of a prematurely thoughtful brow. She 
seemed a child of the middle ages, of which her father 
had made so profound a study. She was about seven 
years old, and I danced her on my knees. 

Her sweet, childish caresses inspired me with a feel- 
ing that was almost paternal. 


Felix de Vigne, born on the 16th of March, 1806, 
was the eldest of six children — four boys and two girls. 

The second son, Pierre, and the third, Edouard, the 
one a sculptor, the other a landscape-painter, had each 
gained the Prix de Rome. Alexandre, the youngest of 
the boys, was a musician. Five or six of their cousins 
were also musicians. 

Truly a family of artists ! 

It is unnecessary for me to mention here the place 
now occupied among Belgian sculptors by Paul de 
Vigne, the son of Pierre, who, at our Great Exposition 
in 1889, obtained a grand prize of honor 

Felix had begun to earn a reputation for himself by 
pictures of an order somewhat more elevated than the 
childish productions I have mentioned. The first paint- 
ing which brought him into note represents Mary of 
Burgundy imploring the pardon of Hugonnet and Am- 
bercourt, in the public square of Ghent, the Marche 
du Vendredi. An excited crowd surround the scaffold, 
which the condemned men are ascending, and on which 
the executioner, clad in red, and holding his axe in his 
hand, is standing. 

The figure of Mary of Burgundy, who is represent- 
ed kneeling, and clad in a black robe embroidered with 
silver, and a long mantle of cloth-of-gold, the head, 
covered with the hennin, thrown backward, displaying 
the youthful countenance to view, and the hands out- 
stretched in supplication, seemed to me very touching. 

This picture was destroyed in a fire. 




When I left Ghent, in 1846, before proceeding to 
Paris, I went to Antwerp, and remained there five or six 

I put up at the Hotel Rubens, in the Place Verte y di- 
rectly below the cathedral. 

I have a remembrance of sleepless nights spent in 
cursing the deafening noise of its chime of bells, which* 
recommenced every quarter of an hour. 

In the daytime, however, nothing could be more 
cheerful than their showers of clear and silvery notes, 
especially on Sundays, which were also/^-days, when 
banners and pennants floated on the breeze. 

I entered my name at the Academy, directed by the 
illustrious Wappers. 

He was a stout man, with brusque and familiar man- 
ners, which those who have known our painter Couture 
can easily picture to themselves. 

He wore ostentatiously the honors of a reputation 
which was beyond his merits. 

At bottom, however, he was a very worthy man. 

His teaching was not as valuable as that of Vander- 
haert. He limited himself to showing how to obtain by 
measurement the proportions of the figure, and to enun- 
ciating aphorisms like the following : " An artist, who 
makes his tones too dark in drawing will always make 
them too gray in painting." He taught the students who 
were learning painting to work in the grounds and the 
tones with touches as distinct as those of a mosaic, and 
to paint the flesh-tints in bright lakes, the half-tints of a 
greenish-gray, and the lights in yellow and pink, to give a 
lifelike expression. It will be seen that our impression- 
ists have invented nothing new. 



I soon quitted the Academy attracted by the great 
painter with whose name Antwerp resounds. 

I went to the museum to study Rubens. 

I there copied the " Christ on the Straw." 

It will be seen by this that I was at that time at- 
tracted more by the faults of the painter than by his 
beauties. Naturally, I exaggerated in my copies the 
carnations, making them still brighter and more porce- 
lain-like than they were in the original. 

I never suspected that the greatest work of Rubens 
was at Ghent, for the painting was at that time hung in 
so bad a light, between two windows in the cathedral, 
that it could scarcely be seen. The picture I refer to is 
the " Calling of St. Bavon." 

But I was not always painting in the museum at Ant- 
werp, and my hours of idleness were more profitable 
than my so-called working hours. 

In this unpretending gallery, with its austere light, 
and its plain and simple arrangements, are to be found 
some masterpieces, in the midst of the crowd of labored 
and dull canvases of the Contortionist period, from 
Breughel to Pourbus, that here display their smooth and 
puffy flesh and distorted anatomy, depicted with the cold 
realism of the dissecting-table. 

What a simple and intense life do the Mendings, the 
Van Eycks, the Quentin-Matsys, and, above all, the 
portraits and the u Seven Sacraments " of Roger Vander 
Weyden, breathe in the midst of the limbo of the Flemish 
Renaissance, dispelled by the triumphant splendors of 
Rubens ! 

And I imbibed, without knowing it, the chaste senti- 
ment of Gothic art. 

The " Dead Christ " of Van Dyck also made a pro- 
found impression upon me. 

After leaving the museum I delighted to wander 


about this devout city whose picturesque streets display 
at every corner Virgins, gorgeous in the midst of their 
golden clouds, or to plunge into mystic reveries at the 
hour of evening prayers, seated in Notre Dame when the 
celestrial strains of the organ rose in swelling waves to 
the lofty vaulted roof, then returned to mingle softly, 
like seraphic echoes, with the voices of the long proces- 
sion of white-robed virgins, moving with downcast eyes 
among the gleaming lights of tapers and the clouds of 
the incense. These chants, this religious pomp, in- 
toxicated my senses, and I felt stir within me some- 
thing of the pure joy I had felt the first time I saw 
my little companions of St. Bertin kneeling to receive 
their first communion. 


The close of this year was gloomy indeed. 

On leaving Antwerp I contracted a cold on the chest, 
which developed into chronic bronchitis. 

My father came to take me home with him. and I 
learned afterward that when we were gone my worthy 
friends had shed tears, thinking they would never see 
me again. De Vigne had painted my portrait some days 
previously, that he might have a souvenir of me. 

I thought myself doomed. To add to my inquietude, 
I found my father greatly changed. For a year past his 
formerly robust health had been declining day by day. 
Seeing him constantly, no one had noticed this at first. 
He did not complain. Some of our friends, alarmed at 
the change in his appearance, drew the attention of the 
family to it. He would not hear of calling in a physi- 
cian, but it was necessary to have recourse to one at 



last. My father went from bad to worse, notwithstand- 
ing the remedies he took. His complexion turned very- 
yellow. Instead of sending him to Vichy — fatal error ! 
—they had bled him. 

Anxious about each other, as we were, the journey 
from Ghent to Courrieres was a very sad one. 

It was now the end of autumn. 

The winter was glorious. I have a remembrance of 
cold, bright days, when everything sparkled with hoar- 
frost. Kind Nature thus threw a little brightness over 
our sad household, formerly so full of life ! 

My brother Emile was still at school, and Louis was 
learning the art of brewing beer, in Ghent. 

Here, then, were my father and I, both ill ; and my 
uncle, although he concealed his uneasiness, could not 
conceal his sadness. 

My grandmother, who loved us all, was visibly de- 
clining. She was now seventy-nine years old. She still 
laughed, however, from habit. She never now stirred 
from her chair, which, as you know, stood near the 
Louis Quinze chimney-piece, in the little kitchen. 

But youth does not long give way to despair. I be- 
gan to take an interest in life again. New blossoms 
sprang up in my heart. 

I profited by my sleepless nights to compose strophes 
that formed themselves in my brain, without conscious 
effort on my part. 

These were the first verses I had made since I had 
left college. 

I began to regain my strength ; my father, also, be- 
gan to grow a little better — when, without warning, a 
sudden illness put an end to my poor godmother's ex- 

On the 13th of February, 1847, she sank to rest, with 
a serenity befitting her pure and simple soul. You have 



read the history of my childhood ; you have seen how 
devotedly this good woman watched over us; you will 
understand my grief. 


At this time I felt myself strongly attracted to Paris. 

In the year 1845 I had spent nearly three weeks 
there with my father, who, at the time, was having pub- 
lished in the Rue Foin Saint - Jacques a Forester's 
Guide, of which not a single copy is now to be met with. 

Through the influence of L. D , a doorkeeper at 

the Louvre, I had obtained a card of admission to the 
museums for the purpose of working there. 

I remember that I was more struck by the facile 
graces of the decadence than by the masterpieces 
there. I made some sketches after Spada, Guido, the 
Carracci, and some Flemish and Dutch painters. 

At the Luxembourg, the paintings of Leopold Ro- 
bert filled me with admiration, while the paintings of 
Delacroix, with the exception of the Massacre of Scio, 
appeared to me hideous. 

The faulty drawing of this painter aroused my in- 

I fancied to myself the furious reproaches Vander- 
haert would have hurled at me if I had drawn hands 
and feet as distorted as some of those in the " Algerian 
Women," and the " Jewish Wedding." 

As for his coloring, filled as my mind still was with 
the transparent lights of the pictures of the Flemish 
school, I thought them dull and muddy, although at the 
same time they impressed me strangely. 

Besides attending to our business, both my father 



and I had made good use of our time in other ways. 
Like all good provincials of those days (one might think 
they were two hundred years ago), we had sent the 
Wonders of the Capital, without forgetting the Vault of 
the Blind, the silver scales of Vero-Dodat, the glass 
staircase, and the pipe which was worth a thousand 

We had made the round of the theatres, applauded 
Duprez, Madame Stolz, Rubini, Mario, Lablache, Ra- 
chel, and the Ravels, the Bouffes, the Lepeintres, the 
Vernets, the Arnals, the Grassots, and many others. 

We had passed whole nights scratching ourselves, 
and writhing among the bedclothes that smelled of 
chlorine, mingled with other perfumes, devoured by the 
bed-bugs, in a small hotel of the Rue Saint-Honor^, 
whose name — Hotel des Ambassadeurs — might, however, 
have led one to expect something better. 

I had seen Versailles ! I find in the rough draft of 
a letter, addressed at this time to a school-fellow who 
was still at college, this pompous phrase : " Versailles, 
where are to be seen the giant progeny of the grandest 
genius of the age — I refer to the great paintings of Hor- 
ace Vernet ! " And to think that the illusions of still-life 
painting could mislead me to this extent ! for it was not 
the beauties of this painter that I chiefly admired, but 
his little tricks to catch the vulgar — the skillful fore- 
shortening of a gun, the gloss on hair moist with per- 
spiration, the exactitude of the details, the deceptions 
of still-life. And yet, O fellow-painters of the present 
day, thus it is that we are appreciated at our exhibitions 
by a multitude of people, who still judge art in this 
fashion ! 

I was not, then, altogether a stranger in Paris, when, 
in 1847, I t0 °k U P m y abode there in a little room, on 
the third floor, at No. 5 Rue du Dragon. 


I had a good many acquaintances in Paris, Courrie- 
res and its surroundings having sent there a part of its 
surplus population. We visited them all, so as not to 
create jealousy — from M. Delbecque, head clerk. in the 
office of the Minister of Public Instruction, to Louis 
Memere, the son of my nurse, who, as you will remem- 
ber, used to tell us stories in our childhood as we sat 
around the fire. 

My father, who was good-nature itself, was of course 
intrusted with some message for each one of them. 

Many of these compatriots of ours served as waiters 
in caf/s. I was struck by the Parisian accent and the 
affected manners of these youths, whom I had known as 
rude peasants. 

Some of them smiled at my simple and provincial 
air, and waited on me in a way that savored more of 
mockery than respect. I must say that I have no com- 
plaint of this kind to make of Louis Memere, although 
he was one of the most accomplished waiters of the 
Cafe de Mulhouse, and, later, of the Cafe des Mille 

The desire to use fine language made them at times 
commit singular mistakes ; thus, because the letters an 
are pronounced in the provincial dialect like in, they 
pronounced the letters in in every word like an. In this 
way they pronounced vin (wine) van, because in the pro- 
vincial dialect vent (wind) is pronounced as if it were 
written vint. And when my father and I went again to 

visit our compatriot, L. I , the doorkeeper of the 

Louvre, whom I have before mentioned, to ask his opinion 
regarding the studio I ought to enter, he responded 
gravely: " It is indispensable that Jules should enter the 
studio of a member of the Anstitute ; there are Mes- 
sieurs Cognet, Picot, Delaroche, Angres, and Drollang y 
to choose from." 


After reflecting for a moment, he advised us to 
choose Drolling, because a former beadle of the studio 
was a friend of his. 

When, carrying my portfolio under my arm, and ac- 
companied by my father, I knocked timidly at the door 
of his studio, it was Drolling himself, his palette in his 
hand, who opened the door for us. 

He wore a knitted woolen jacket and a red Greek 
cap, as he is represented in the portrait painted of him 
by his pupil Biennourry. 

His frank and simple manners, somewhat brusque, 
and his long white mustache, gave him the air rather of 
a retired officer than of an artist. 

Under this exterior I divined an excellent nature, 
and I gathered courage. 

I opened my portfolio, which contained, along with 
some drawings and still-life studies in my own style, a 
torso painted by one of the shining lights among the 
students of the Academy of Antwerp, after the method 
which I have before mentioned. This gaudy torso, 
which resembled an omelet with jam, shocked at the 
very beginning my future master. " Look at that ! It 
is horrible ! " he cried. 

Happily I could tell him that it was not my work. I 
then showed him a still-life study which I had painted 
while in the studio of De Vigne, to which I attached but 
little importance, and which I should never have dared 
to compare to the gaudy picture of the Academy of Ant- 

His expression immediately changed. " This yours ? " 
he said to me. " Why, it is divinely painted ! " 

Divinely painted ! With what sweetness these words 
fell on the good ear of my father, who, like me now, was 
deaf in one ear ! 

My father was very ill at this time, dying within a 


year. He was not permitted, alas ! to witness any of 
ray successes, and of ray paintings he saw only one — " St. 
Piat preaching to the Gauls " — my first picture, executed 
while I was at Ghent, and which we so proudly hung 
over one of the side altars of the church of Courrieres. 

This praise from the lips of a man whom we consid- 
ered a great painter moved him profoundly. 

When we again found ourselves alone on the land- 
ing, after Drolling had closed the door of the studio, my 
father clasped me in his arms, repeating, "You paint 
divinely ! " Then, as we went down-stairs, he added : 
" Hey ! what if you, too, should one day become a 
member of the Institute ? " 

Blessed be your memory, O good Drolling, for by your 
words you justified in the mind of a father, soon to die, 
his confidence in his son's future — his supreme consola- 
tion ! 


My father soon returned home, leaving me alone in 
the whirl of Paris, that desert full of unknown faces. 

For the first few days I was like one dazed, without 
knowing which way to turn — wandering aimlessly on, 
losing myself a dozen times, and finding myself again 
in the same street, when I had thought myself miles 

solitude in the midst of the crowd — solitude 
without peace, how heavily you weighed upon me at 
first ! 

1 had indeed, at the beginning, on Sundays, the so- 
ciety of some of my compatriots, the waiters ; but their 
fine language and their endless conversation about the 
great men who frequented their restaurants, and of 


whom they spoke as if they were their intimate friends, 
possessed but little interest for me. 

I was not familiar with either the names or the his- 
tories of the celebrities of the day. 

I had a liking for Louis Memere, however, at the 
same time that I could not help smiling at his preten- 

We often walked together in the outskirts of the city, 
and it was wonderful to me, who blushed up to the eyes 
whenever I was obliged to address one of the waiters in 
a restaurant, to see with what self-possession and ease 
he spoke to everybody. He knew how to make himself 
served, glaring at the waiter, and threatening to com- 
plain to the head of the establishment if the slightest 
delay were made in serving him, or if the merest trifle 
had been forgotten. " Have you no lemons here ? Go 
bring the landlord ! " 

These despotic ways embarrassed me a little, indeed, 
but when the lemon had been obtained, and the bill 
paid, I loved to continue our walk farther on into the 
corn-fields. This recalled our childhood to me, and we 
spoke of our native place with emotion — of my father, 
my uncle, my younger brothers, and of M£me-re Henri- 
ette, who had nursed us, and who was beginning to grow 
old, and of grandfather Colas, who was still living, the 
one from whom he had heard so many tales, and of a 
thousand nothings — of the brown salamanders that 
prowled at night in the flower-beds in the garden, and 
of the gooseberries he ate there so greedily, while the 
grasshoppers chirped in the gathering twilight. And 
those nothings would make my bosom swell with an in- 
tense longing to be once more in my native place. 



My entrance to the Drolling studio was not unat- 
tended by some disagreeable incidents. The moment I 
put my foot inside the door a deafening tumult greeted 
my ears, and I saw myself surrounded by faces whose 
expressions, bantering, menacing, or strange, absolutely 
terrified me. I felt myself at the same time pulled about 
from one side to another, while I received on my head 
the blows of the cushions of the tabourets, that rained 
upon me from all parts of the room. 

It was in this way that new pupils were greeted in 
those days. 

Quiet being restored, one of the tallest of the stu- 
dents, who, better dressed and more distinguished-look- 
ing than the others, appeared to me to be of a superior 
station, approached me and asked me very politely : 

" Where are you from, monsieur ? " I answered in 
a tone that I tried to render as amiable as possible, 
" From Pas-de-Calais." " Oh, that is easily seen," he 
said, without moving a muscle of his countenance. 

This polite young man was called Timbal. 

Then the oldest of the group, Deligne, a young man 
from Cambrai, near my native place, came up to me and 
said : " See, my boy, there are seven or eight among the 
students whom I am going to point out to you, and 
whom it would be well for you to make friends with. 
As for the others, you may snap your fingers at them." 
And then, raising his voice, he said to the students : 
" This new pupil is a compatriot of mine ; I shall take 
him under my protection, and let him who dare touch 
him ! " 

From this time forth I was left in peace. I was as- 
signed the task, in accordance with the custom of the 


time, of taking care of the fire and going on certain er- 
rands ; and the first time I took my hat from the nail to 
go on one of these, I saw that they had drawn on it with 
chalk the cockade and aigrette of a lackey. 

At the height of the melee, through the dust raised 
by the blows of the cushions and the stamping of the 
feet of the boys, among whom Ulman, nicknamed 
M Horse's Head," was one of the wildest, I had caught 
a glimpse of a young man, of quiet demeanor, who was 
looking at me less mockingly than the others. 

His countenance at once arrested my attention. He 
was short, thick-set, very dark, with hair the color of 
the raven's wing, that rose abruptly from the head and 
then fell down in a twisted lock over the straight fore- 
head. His eyes, which were deep-set and very black, 
shone from beneath overhanging brows. A budding 
mustache shaded his short upper lip, and his mouth, 
notwithstanding the proximity of the square jaw and 
the prominent chin, denoting self-will, had a sweet and 
melancholy expression. It was the face of an eagle 
touched with feeling. 

His name was Paul Baudry. 

What struck me most in the work of the students 
here was the cold, dull coloring of the greater number 
of the paintings. 

They were very different from the glowing canvases 
of Antwerp, but the drawing was more correct. I thought 
some of them skillfully executed, but wanting in life. 
The faces of Baudry, however, with proportions that 
were often incorrect, had a singularly lifelike expression. 

The master visited the studio twice a week, limiting 
himself on these occasions to pointing out arms that 
were too long, or legs that were too short, and never 
finding the necks flexible enough. He advised us to 
make sketches, a great many sketches, from the antique,* 


and from Poussin. Sometimes he would say : " More 
light ! Light is a fine thing ! " Alas ! it was easier to 
give the advice than to follow it. 

Baudry was already regarded as destined to become 
famous. If his genius had been divined, however, that 
of Henner was still unrecognized. The latter worked 
silently, painting his figure conscientiously and with 
even touch, without himself suspecting the brilliant 
future that awaited him. Timbal gave no greater 
promise than Henner, but he was very noisy, speaking 
in a loud tone of voice, and singing in the same manner. 

He sought after esprit. 

One day he said, " Nature, who never makes a mis- 
take, knowing that I was born for noise, called me 

There were others, too, who sang unceasingly — Mer- 
son, Pouttier, Langlois, and the worthy Roy, now living 
in Rennes, and with whom I still keep up an intimacy. 

Merson, who is also still my friend, has, as we know, 
given up painting for literature, leaving to a son the 
task of covering the family name with glory in the field 
of art. Maillot sought after style, which he occasionally 
found, and in the rare intervals, of silence he would tell 
witty anecdotes with a grave air, speaking in a monoto- 
nous tone that lulled the ear agreeably, and separating 
each syllable, with a simplicity of manner that had some- 
thing very comical in it. 

The presence of Bertinot scarcely made itself felt. 
He was in poor health, and rarely stirred from his chair, 
digging away industriously at his work ; nor, that of 
the poor Roguet, a handsome young man, and who was 
twice to obtain the Prix de Rome, and also the prize 
offered by the state, in 1848, for a statue of the Republic. 

* A kettle-drum. 


We all thought a glorious future awaited him. Alas ! 
he was soon to die at Rome from the consequences of a 
fall from his horse, like Gericault. 

It was here, too, that I became acquainted with the 
worthy Leon Moricourt for whom I still entertain an af- 
fection, and the excellent and intelligent Emile Sintain. 

But, although it is true, I had now made some ac- 
quaintances, I had not yet found a real friend. 

Habituated to the quietude of a retired life, I felt 
myself, in the whirl of Paris, dazed and out of my ele- 

My work suffered from this confusion. 

I no longer painted divinely. I received no prize, and 
in the School of Fine Arts I was placed in the supple- 
mentary class. 

At the competition especially I made a botch of my 
drawings, tearing the paper by dint of digging at it. I 
always grew disgusted with my figure before it was fin- 
ished, and either threw it aside or continued to work 
obstinately at the same part, making it worse than it was 

I became discouraged. 

Drolling, who did not believe in the sincerity of my 
fruitless efforts, regarded me as a rebellious pupil, and 
took a dislike to me. Every Saturday, at the sketch- 
class, I was the subject of some sharp reprimand. " What 
do you call that? Now we have a specimen of Diaz 
and Delacroix ! " There was something of prejudice in 
this, perhaps, as he always placed me lowest, even when 
I painted "The Death of Epaminondas," which Baudry 
had considered good. 

One day I took my revenge. We had the " Death of 
Antony " given us as a subject, and I made two different 
compositions of it. He recognized my touch in the first 
of these which his eye fell upon, rated me sharply, and, 


as usual, put me at the tail. Then, when his examina- 
tion was almost finished, he saw the second sketch, in 
which I had purposely disguised my style, and, before 
knowing whom it was by, he praised it so highly that he 
was compelled to give it the first place. 

Thus it was that at the same competition I was both 
first and last. 

This slight success was only a faint gleam of light in 
the midst of the many annoyances and mortifications I 
endured, especially as I had no one to whom I could 
unburden my full heart. I missed the sweet scent of 
the clover. I missed, too, Flanders, and the simple life 
there, the rustic villages around Ghent, with their green 
fields so near the city ; and the tea-gardens, where we 
went in a boat, and where for a few sous one could get 
a glass of excellent beer, and cold eels, dressed with 
sorrel. I missed, in a word, the comfort which was there 
to be had at little cost, and which was not to be found 
here. The theatres were too expensive, and what tenor 
in Paris, even Dupre himself, could be compared with 
the famous Albert ? He was afterward the teacher of 
Lauwers, one of the most admired singers of Paris — 
ask him what he thinks of Albert ! Ask any of my con- 
temporaries in Ghent if they have ever heard an artist 
who was comparable to him ? What storms of applause 
greeted certain airs, when the bravos interrupted the 
performance for minutes at a time ! Often I would re- 
turn home from the theatre, striding along the street 
gesticulating, intoxicated with enthusiasm, as on the oc- 
casion, for instance, when, lost in these raptures, and 
not seeing whither I was going, I stepped between the 
loose bars of a cellar-grating, and thought myself fortu- 
nate on drawing my foot out, and seeing the large rent 
in my trousers, to find that my leg was not broken. 

How beautiful the city looked on winter nights, as I 



returned from the theatre, the light from the street lamps 
falling palely on the snow, while from the slated roofs 
and spires the cold rays of the moon were reflected 
brightly ! 

How far I was from all this and from those pretty 
girls whom in summer I would meet on my Sunday 
walks, and whom I looked at boldly in the distance, 
toward whom I walked with courageous step, to blush 
from bashfulness like an imbecile, while my knees bent 
under me, as I passed them by ! 

And the bare room which De Winne and I shared, 
with its book-shelf that, supported only by a single nail, 
fell down on the same day with the bell-tower of Valen- 
ciennes. How we had laughed at this coincidence, say- 
ing that the shock produced by the fall of the shelf had 
caused that of the bell-tower ! 

And I recalled all these trifles with sadness, and, 
above all, I recalled the little friend whose delicately 
outlined face, like that of one of the angels in the Gothic 
cathedrals, vanished from my sight the moment I sought 
to fix it on canvas. 

How many sorrows did you witness, O little room 
in the Rue du Dragon ! 

How all my dreams of glory had vanished ! How 
direct my course in this labyrinth ? How make my way 
through this busy crowd that jostle and hinder one 
another at every step ? 

Ah ! weariness ! 

I remember dark, rainy days, when I wandered alone 
through the muddy streets, sick at heart, walking on and 
on aimlessly, without pausing, perspiring under the hood 
of my coat, and splashed to the waist, while the rain fell 
ceaselessly, seeking consolation, not in the gayety, but 
in the desolation around me. 

One day, when I had been again placed among the 


last in the sketch-class, I felt so profound a sense of dis- 
satisfaction with myself that, wishing to see misery still 
greater than mine, I yielded to the irresistible impulse 
that drew me to contemplate the horrible sights in the 


Fortunately, it was not long before my brother 
femile came to live with me. 

My excellent father, who wished before his death to 
assure the future of his children, had built a factory for 
him, and now sent him to Paris to take lessons in chem- 

But, in place of devoting himself to the sciences, Emile 
spent his days regularly at the Louvre or the Luxem- 
bourg, although he did not yet comprehend the voca- 
tion that attracted him to art. 

His presence chased away the evil dreams that had 
haunted my solitude. 

He was now sixteen. I was astonished to discover 
in him all at once a turn for art that we had never be- 
fore suspected. I scolded him for wasting his time, but 
without effect. 

One afternoon, returning to our room, I found upon 
the table a rough sketch in water-colors, exquisite in 
tone, and I was astonished to learn that this was the 
first attempt of my young brother. 

From that time I ceased to oppose him. In other 
respects we were not in accord in our views regarding 
art. He admired neither Ingres nor Leopold Robert, 
while he adored Delacroix. 

The Salon of 1847 — the first held since I had been 
in Paris — was soon opened. .-..., 


The hall was reached from the corner of the Place 
du Carrousel by a massive staircase, no longer used. 

How this place has changed since then ! Starting 
from the Rue de Rivoli, various alleys, narrow and 
dirty, in which twilight always reigned, encroached up- 
on it. These alleys terminated near the little Arc de 
la Victoire, in a few scattered and forbidding-looking 
houses. In the middle, standing alone, was the Hotel 
de Nantes, and near by rose a small monument erected 
to a student killed in July, 1830. In the approaches to 
the Louvre were crowded together a number of wooden 
barracks, occupied by venders of birds that filled the 
air with their cries, and by venders of old books and 
engravings, soiled maps, tattered pamphlets, grimy paint- 
ings, and dusty bric-a-brac, among which thin fingers were 
always rummaging, and long, yellow noses diving inquis- 

The whole place, even the court of the Louvre, was 
unpaved, as far as the rising ground on which stood the 
statue of the Duke of Orleans by Marochetti, replaced 
by the equestrian statue of Francis I by Clisinger, called 
the Sire de Frambotst. 

The pictures of the Exhibition were displayed in the 
Square Hall and in the Grand Gallery, much longer then 
than now, against wooden partitions which, for three 
months in the year, hid from view the Old Masters that 
hung, deprived of light and air, behind them. 

Another gallery of unplaned boards, a permanent one, 
supported on rough beams, ran the length of the Carrousel. 

Great as had been my eagerness to see it, I did not 
experience when there the same emotion as I had felt at 
Brussels five years before. My eyes were no longer un- 
practiced. I had penetrated behind the scenes in art, 
and vivid coloring had lost its fascination for me. I 
now looked for harmony. 


I enter the Square Hall. In place of the Veronese 
that had hung there before, I see the grand success of 
the day, " The Roman Orgy," of Thomas Couture. 

I stand before this picture, undecided whether to 
admire it or not. At first it gives me the impression of 
something faded, like one of Boucher's legs of beef. I 
am struck by the decorative part of the picture, the 
beautiful architecture and the wide-mouthed vases drop- 
ping their faded flowers on the floor. 

The coloring of the picture seems to me confused, 
as if seen through a greenish-gray fog. I admire the 
figures of the philosophers, the mastery of the grouping, 
but I am little struck by the character of this orgy, that 
I should prefer to be either wilder or more moderate. 
Here are bourgeois diverting themselves, vulgar debauch- 
ers. Neither can I reconcile myself to this eighteenth- 
century art, these Roman costumes and architecture, 
with these men and women of the time of Louis Philippe. 

I have said that I made but little progress at the 
studio ; but spring, whose mild airs caused the magnifi- 
cent chestnut-trees, since dead, of the Garden of the 
Luxembourg to send forth their shining buds — spring, 
which sifted its pale sunshine through their spreading 
green branches on the ladies, and the nurses and their 
little charges seated at their feet — spring chased away 
my fits of gloom, and cheered and revived my heart, in 
which a new joy had sprung up. 

For I had just begun, in my little room, a sunlight 
sketch from nature of a scene in this delightful garden. 

I must confess that I was not dissatisfied with this 
painting, the first in which I drew my inspiration direct 
from nature. I saw a new world, as it were, open be- 
fore me, a world of new harmonies of color. 

This feeling of pride, for which there was so little 
foundation, it was that made me so severe toward Cou- 


ture and the other exhibitors at the Salon of 1847. I had 
not yet acquired the experience which gives modesty. 

I did not lay down my arms even before Delacroix, 
whose Lance-Thrust seemed to me heavy from its ex- 
cessive elaboration. The recollection of the pictures 
of the middle ages, at Brussels, for which I cherished 
so profound an admiration, prevented my doing justice 
to the sentiment of this work. 

I anticipated a keen pleasure in seeing the pictures 
of Horace Vernet, whom I had so ardently admired 
scarcely a year before, and I was greatly surprised to 
find his " Royal Family " and his " Judith " both a little 
dull and commonplace. 

In exchange, with some slight reservations, I admired 
Diaz. I found reproduced in part in his paintings my 
impressions of the Garden of the Luxembourg and of the 
Forest of Labroye — these latter received so long ago. 

I was charmed by his shimmering draperies, his 
pearly, transparent flesh-tints, and his bursts of sunshine 
darting through the branches and lighting up with daz- 
zling gleams the trunks of the trees of the tall hedges. I 
also found real sunlight in the May Dance of Muller. 

Corot enchanted me. There was a silvery pool of 
his that reflected back the sky and the trees wet with 
morning dew that recalled to my mind hours spent in 
childhood wandering along the borders of the ponds in 
our Carperie. 


The circle of my friends, meantime, had widened. 
I had met again some of the former students of the col- 
lege, and among them Ernest Delalleau, a young archi- 
tect and a pupil of Labrouste, 



This Delalleau was a strange-looking young man. 
He had an animated face, extremely mobile and intelli- 
gent, with light-green eyes shot with yellow, and set 
close together like those of a monkey. The head of a 
Roman, covered with stiff and rebellious locks ; a straight 
forehead ; eyebrows ascending toward the temples ; a 
retrousse nose ; very thin lips, always wearing a mock- 
ing expression; strong, square jaws ; a large and promi- 
nent chin, on which grew a short, ill-kept bristly beard ; 
a very long neck, with the glottis extremely prominent ; 
the neck set firmly on the shoulders — such were the 
parts that went to complete the picture, odd rather 
than ugly, and singularly remarkable, of this young 

I met him for the first time, in the year 1838, at the 
little seminary of St. Bertin. He was then about twelve 
years old. 

We were in the refectory when he entered for the 
first time — the only first appearance of a student among 
us which I remember, although I have witnessed many. 
Why ? Why, because it was he, and the world could 
never contain two Delalleaus. 

He wore a jacket of green lasting, bound with braid, 
like many of the other boys ; trousers plaited on the 
hips, like all of them. His hat only, of a somewhat pe- 
culiar fashion, seemed to have made any demands upon 
the imagination. It resembled a cardinal's hat from its 
shape, as well as from the silk tassel that floated at the 
end of a complicated gimp ornament. 

But what most struck me, as I said, was himself: the 
nose like a trumpet, the mouth with its receding lips, the 
bristling locks, and, above all, his expression like that of 
a frightened squirrel, as if he had suddenly fallen down 
among us from some tree in the forest of Hesden, his 
native place. 



The first thing he did was to draw the attention of 
his neighbor to the flies walking on the ceiling. 

Fate willed that we should pursue the same paths. I 
met him again at the College of Douai, where we first be- 
came intimate on account of the similarity in our tastes. 
He drew, and made verses which he sent to his simple- 
hearted father. The latter was enchanted with his son's 
genius, and sent back the same verses to him, recop- 
ied in his own neater handwriting. 

Delalleau was my chief rival in the competition for 
the prize for drawing from the cast, in which I came out 

He soon showed that he had plenty of intelligence, 
but a lack of connection in his thoughts. 

He might have accomplished a great deal, if he had 
been able to fix his attention on any one subject. 

He would have made a first-rate actor. 

He had fits of enthusiasm which changed like the 

The censor of the college, a Gascon, laying his large 
hand one day on the head of Delalleau, said, "And 
when are they going to put a leaden cap on this head? " 
No one could make more absurd accusations, or defend 
with greater eloquence the side he took up, than he 
His sallies were never-ending. But all this bore no 
fruit. The leaden cap, alas ! was wanting. 

I met him a third time in Paris, on which occasion 
we saw each other daily. 

I soon observed that the same contradictions existed 
in his moral as in his intellectual nature. He was at 
once bold and timid, generous and avaricious, domi- 
neering and affectionate, proud and tender. He al- 
ways gave evidence of a strong sense of justice, how- 

The events of 1848 were approaching. Various in- 


cidents, unnecessary to relate here, had served to fan the 
flame of party animosity. 

Paris had become irritable and feverish. Odillon 
Banot, in the National, and Ledru-Rollin, in the Reforme, 
were especially furious in their attacks on the party in 

These journals were eagerly devoured by the people, 
and passed from hand to hand. 

The excitement extended to the provinces, and was 
especially intense in certain large cities where the 
speeches of the Reform banquets found an echo. 

My uncle, always enthusiastic and an assiduous 
reader and blind believer in the doctrines of the Demo- 
cratic Paciftque, was very proud of having fraternized at 
Lille with the great tribune Ledru-Rollin. 

My father, calmer by nature, and ill at the time, be- 
sides, had not been present at any of those banquets, 
although a democrat in theory and in practice. He had 
for many years, indeed, thought himself a legitimist, on 
account of his long connection with the Duke of Duras, 
who had presented him at a soiree at the court of 
Charles X. 

But he was even then at heart, as he afterward said, 
a republican without knowing it. 

As for me I felt but little interest in politics, never 
reading the papers, and always engrossed in my affec- 
tions and my art. 

Delalleau, on the contrary, enthusiastic by nature, and 
a great admirer of the Robespierres and the Dantons of 
history, his mind crammed with the declamatory phrases 
of the press, went about preaching revolutionary ideas. 
He said " the Rrrrevolution ! " He came to stir me up 
in my peaceful retreat, calling the state of ^^/-indiffer- 
ence I maintained with regard to the burning questions 
of the day monstrous selfishness. 



But it sprang rather from ignorance on my part. 

He enlightened me regarding public affairs. 

He had no difficulty in proving to me that Louis 
Philippe, whom I had not hitherto regarded as a bad 
man, was more cruel than Tiberius or Nero. 

He took me to the lectures of Michelet, whose elo- 
quence drew me along with almost all the young men of 
Paris into the popular current. 

People began to grow excited. 

Ah ! and how touchy they became ! 

The king, in his speech, had dared to talk of " blind 
or hostile passions ! " 

You should have seen with what flashing eyes Delal- 
leau repeated this phrase, " Blind or hostile passions 1 " 

Was he addressing a free people, or were we slaves ? 
It was monstrous, unheard of ! 

Truly we were returning to the times of the cage of 
Cardinal de la Balue. 

Not Camille Desmoulins himself had exercised a more 
magnetic influence on those who heard him than did 
Delalleau, when, on the occasion of Michelet's next lect- 
ure, he rose in his seat before the arrival of the illus- 
trious professor, and with quivering nostrils, his hair and 
beard bristling with indignation, his yellow eyes flashing, 
read in a thundering voice the famous Discourse from 
the Throne. 

His retrousse' nose quivered with rage as he shouted 
the words " Blind or hostile passions ! " 

With what indignation he cast from him this docu- 
ment, of a past age ; with what rage he stamped upon it 
afterward ! 

Thus did Delalleau offer himself a willing victim to 
the vengeance of the tyrant. 

He was not molested ; but the lectures of Michelet 
were stopped. 


This piece of bravado had a pitiable sequel. 

A few days afterward I was at the house of Delal- 
leau, when his porter brought him his paper, the Reforme. 

He opened it, and his glance fell on a letter of 
Michelet's. It referred without doubt to the famous in- 
cident ! 

He read — he read — what ? 

But no, it could not be possible ! 

At the end of the letter he read this sentence : 
" Besides, it was easy to see, from the fantastic appear- 
ance and dress of the individual who read the king's 
speech, that he was an emissary of the secret police." 


Meantime Emile had returned to Courrieres, having 
learned more from the Louvre than from his teacher. I 
saw him depart with keen regret, although in future I 
should be less lonely than formerly, having now made 
some friends. 

Among these I will mention Feyen-Perrin, who had 
just been admitted to the studio Drolling. 

He was about nineteen. 

Careless in regard to his dress, he had a great deal 
of natural distinction of manner, and was beautiful as a 
Greek youth, with his dark, flowing locks and his regu- 
lar and expressive features overspread with a bronze 
pallor that redoubled their charm. His glance was at 
once veiled and ardent, and he had a melancholy mouth, 
slightly disdainful in expression, shaded by a growing 
beard, shaped like that we see in the pictures of Christ. 

It was now 1848. 

The revolutionary spirit, which was destined to over- 



turn the existing order of society, was paving the way, 
at the same time, for radical changes in art and litera- 

The pupils in the studios as well as in the colleges, 
irrespective of station or political opinion, felt the at- 
traction of a movement as popular if not as violent as 
that of 1830. 

The one was the result of new aspirations, more or 
less chimerical, the other the revolt of reason against 
the brilliant fancies of Romanticism. 

If this latter movement drew some artists toward the 
lowlands of art, it impelled others to those heights 
where spring its living sources. I remember what a 
strange new restlessness agitated my companions and 

Soon to the ferment of ideas were added the emo- 
tions of active life. 

We were about to pass through one of the great so- 
cial crises which, throwing men out of the beaten paths, 
excite their imaginations and sharpen their creative fac- 
ulties, as storms plowing up the earth fertilize certain 
parts of the soil barren before, and stimulate the growth 
of new vegetation. 


I had been ill. I had been confined to my room 
for several days in consequence of a return of my old 

It is the 2 2d of February. 

I have just awakened, finding a proof of returning 
health in the joyous feeling of well-being I experience. 
I luxuriate in the soft repose of the bed, and in that 
poetic egoism of convalescence which makes joy spring 


up, with health, in the heart, especially when one is 

I hear the accustomed sounds, the cries of the buy- 
ers of old clothes and rags, and the shrill screams of 
the brush-vender, that reach me while he is still in the 
Rue des Saints-Peres. 

I am about to take my chocolate, when a heavy blow 
from the butt-end of a musket shakes my door, and my 
crazy friend Delalleau, in the uniform of the National 
Guard, bursts in, and, leaning on his musket with one 
hand and placing the other theatrically on his hip, 
cries : 

" We are making a Rrrrevolution ! ! ! " 

" As usual," I answer, shrugging my shoulders. 

He goes off to join his company. 

I left the house a moment afterward. 

The day was fine. The sun shone brightly in the 
Rue Taranne, where groups of soldiers were stationed 
near their stands of arms. 

To this unusual sight I attached little importance. 

Besides, no one seemed to regard the disturbance as 
anything more than a simple riot. Great events, how- 
ever, were about to take place. 

The following is the account I gave my uncle of the 
scenes I witnessed on the 23d of February, in a letter 
dated the morning of the 24th : 

" Yesterday, Wednesday, there was a sharp struggle 
between the people and the Municipal Guard, and blood 
flowed in the Rues St. Honore, St. Martin, St. Denis, 
and Montorgueil. In the evening things were quieting 
down, when the news spread that the ministry had re- 
signed. From eight to ten in the evening Paris was en 
fete. The principal streets of the city, which were illu- 
minated, were filled with crowds of joyous and excited 
people crying : ' Vive la Reforme ! Down with Guizot ! ' 


u The National Guard sang the Marsellaise. I walked 
through the streets with Monsieur Broquise, a law stu- 
dent, who lodges in the same house with me. After 
crossing the Rue St. Denis, which presented a magnifi- 
cent spectacle, we walked along the Boulevard. The 
people seemed to have only peaceful intentions, and we 
were walking on quietly when, at about forty paces dis- 
tant from the residence of the Minister of Foreign Af- 
fairs, we suddenly heard the sound of musketry. With- 
out stopping to learn the cause, we took the first street 
we came to, and ran away at full speed." 

Next day, the 26th, I go to the studio. I find there 
only a few of the students, who, greatly agitated, are 
discussing the stormy events of the day before. 

The insurgents had carried the victims of the fusil- 
lade on wagons through the streets, by torch-light, utter- 
ing cries of " Vengeance ! " 

Numerous barricades had been erected. There was 
a little fighting on the other side of the river. 

Under such circumstances no one thought of work- 

The students went away one by one, until only Fey- 
en-Perrin and I remained. 

Neither of us could resist the temptation of going to 
see what was taking place on the right bank of the river. 

In our quarter nothing extraordinary was going on. 
There were few people in the streets, and these were 
gathered about here and there in agitated groups. 

We continued on our way and soon reached the seat 
of action. 

After crossing the silent Louvre, the deserted Rue 
de Coq and the Rue St. Honor£, whose barricades were 
deserted, we suddenly found ourselves in the Place du 
Palais Royal, surrounded by armed men who had come 


from we knew not where, and between the insurgents, who 
from their ramparts of paving-stones were already point- 
ing their guns, on the one side, and on the other the sol- 
diers who occupied the post which then stood in front 
of the palace. 

This crowd seemed to have sprung up from the 
ground, while, thoughtful and agitated, we had been 
looking at the soldiers supporting their arms, an angry 
and dejected expression on their pale countenances. 

We sprang on the barricade, seeking to make our 
way out of the tumult, which we succeeded in doing 
after some difficulty, and arrived at the Rue de Valois, 
where, happily, on our left, was the Cafe du Nord, in 
which we took refuge. 

Hardly were we inside, when a volley of musketry 
burst forth. 

From the window where we stood we saw an im- 
mense crowd rushing toward the barricade. 

Those haggard faces with unkempt beards ; those 
men armed with pistols, halberds, and even custom- 
house officers' probes ; the ceaseless firing ; the gloomy 
and livid light, dimly illuminating the street, silent but 
alive with motion ; the sudden flashes seen from time to 
time in the midst of the smoke ; the noise of the mus- 
ketry suddenly breaking through the silence ; the wound- 
ed men whom they brought to the Cafe* du Nord where 
we were ; the fury of the ragged populace — all breathed 
a tragic horror. 

How long did this terrible scene last ? We did not 

Suddenly we see, through the windows overlooking 
the yard, men running over the roofs of the Palais 
Royal. The firing slackens, then ceases. 

The Revolution is accomplished ! 

We proceed on our way. In the Rue de Valois the 


air is filled with a cloud of feathers from the ripped 
mattresses which grotesque figures are shaking out of 
the windows of the Palais Royal. Hundreds of books 
and engravings which have been thrown out of the win- 
dows of the library lie heaped in the gutter. 

Behind the blood-stained barricade, in the guard- 
house, which is on fire, the unfortunate soldiers are 
roasting alive ! 

What were then our feelings ? It would be difficult 
for me to define them. 

If I remember aright, I think I discover in the first 
place a great sadness, a profound disgust at the blood 
which has been shed, an overwhelming pity for the vic- 
tims, but at the same time an indescribable, all-pervad- 
ing thrill, an intensity of life, that redoubled the power 
of the senses, sharpening the vision ard causing us to 
receive a more vivid and rapid impression of the acts, 
the shouts, and the faces of this delirious crowd rushing 
through the streets singing patriotic hymns. 

In this flood of emotion we felt ourselves better art- 
ists as well as better citizens, and, behind the dark 
clouds of the smoke of the revolution, we could see shin- 
ing the bright sun of the future. 

We walked toward the Tuileries along the quays, 
after having retraced our steps through the Louvre. On 
the Pont des Arts we saw a young man, an officer of the 
National Guard, with his head bound in a bloody hand- 
kerchief. They were carrying him on a stretcher, but 
he did not seem to feel his wound, and was triumphant- 
ly brandishing a branch of laurel, while he sang the 
Air des Girondins. 

The Pavilion of Flora had been invaded by a crowd 
intoxicated with victory, who were giving full sway to 
their destructive instincts. 

Mingled with the dibris thrown from the windows, 


wine flowed along the gutters, and, as every dramatic 
situation must have its comic side, a wag had put on the 
red livery of the valets of the king and strutted about 
on the balcony, haranguing the groups who* danced on 
the quay. 

From a letter written on the evening of the same day 
to my uncle I copy the following passage : 

" The Rue St. Honore presents a horrifying specta- 
cle. The houses are riddled by bullets ; the pavement 
has been torn up for almost the entire length of the 
street, which is in places covered with blood. This 
evening almost all the guard-houses are on fire. The 
emotions I have to-day experienced are so numerous 
and so varied that it would be impossible for me to de- 
scribe them. In them horror and enthusiasm are con- 
fusedly mingled together." 

Once masters of the city, however, the people will 
prove themselves capable of self-government, respecting 
the rights of the individual and of property, and them- 
selves shooting down the pillagers. 


The causes that led to this revolution and the con- 
sequences that resulted from it exerted a powerful influ- 
ence, as I have said, on my mind, and on that of every 
other artist, as well as on the general movement of art 
and literature. In every department new experiments 
were tried. 

" The new social stratum," as Gambetta called it 
later on, together with its natural environment, became 
a subject of study. There was a deeper interest in the 
life of the street and of the fields. The tastes and the 


feelings of the poor were taken into account, and art 
conferred honors upon them, formerly reserved for the 
gods and for the great. 

If 1830 had brought back feudalism, 1848 will broaden 
the popular field. Living nature, the nature that laughs, 
labors, and weeps, as well as the nature which we do 
wrong to call inanimate, will be more closely studied. 
For this nature, too, thrills with life, with its fields, its 
skies, its waters and its verdure, its winds, its rains, its 
snows, and its sunshine — always vibrant, always varied. 

This movement had nothing in common with the 
experiments that it was right and necessary to make in 
the absolute negation of what had been accomplished in 
the past in the arts. Tradition, that beacon from the 
past which serves as a light to guide the future, was re- 

Genius met with consideration, and Delacroix was 
admired none the less because pointed shoes, top-boots, 
and all the old-fashioned wardrobe of Romanticism were 
hung up in the closet, together with the Nanterre cap 
which, up to that time, had served to represent the cos- 
tume of the Greeks and Romans. 

The ancients were studied. 

Almost every school of art, even the Neo-Greek, 
Haraon and his rivals, profited by this movement toward 
the True. 

The landscape-painters had led the way — Rousseau, 
Corot, Cabat, Diaz, and Troyon, who was beginning to 
win a name. 

At first there was a return to the Dutch school. In 
his early pictures, Rousseau, in more than one of his char- 
acteristics, recalls Hobbema. 

I think the influence of the English school has been 
exaggerated. I recognize its influence, indeed, through 
Bonington, on Delacroix, the Deverias, and their school. 


But I recognize scarcely a trace of it among our newer 
landscape-painters, with the exception of Paul Huet, 
whose part, however, has been an unimportant one. 

Turner is a painter of the Romantic school, full of 
genial fancy, when he does not draw his inspiration 
from Claude Lorraine. 

Constable, like Rousseau, has occasionally shown the 
influence of the Dutch school. 

In reality, the Ruysdaels and the Hobbemas are the 
real fathers of our modern landscape-painting. They 
have penetrated deeply into the secrets of Nature, and 
their somewhat conventicnal execution does not prevent 
them being in the main simple and true to Nature. 

Rousseau had studied their works for a long time. 
Then he went to Fontainebleau, and in gravel-pits and 
wild thickets clothed in the gorgeous tints of autumn, 
he found again, in part, the tones and harmonies of his 
favorite masters. For a time he saw with their eyes, 
and then, retiring to the forest, and giving himself up to 
the study of Nature, he formed an original style. He 
painted some masterpieces. 

But he confined himself to his own inspiration too 
long, forgot his early teachers, and declined lamentably 
in his style ; for it is never well to fall back too much 
upon one's self. 

Corot, on his side, derived his inspiration from Pous- 
sin and Claude Lorraine. Italy attracted him. The 
beautiful Campagna of Rome, and, above all, the tender 
beauty of the Lake of Nemi, filled his soul with enthu- 
siasm. He formed under this influence an original style, 
at once sublime and simple. He gave shape to the 
chaste visions of an imagination, where up to old age 
will bloom an eternal spring. 

Rousseau gives us rugged gullies with steep, rocky 
sides and impenetrable thickets, gnarled oaks shading 


motionless pools ; his springs are cold, his autumns red ; 
Corot depicts the gentler emotions of Nature, her virgin 
charms, her enchanting mysteries, her serene grandeur, 
her flowers laden with dew. Daubigny, the humblest 
and the most natural of painters, depicts in all their 
freshness the simple pleasures of country life ; Fromen- 
tin is subtle ; Franeais, elegant ; the solitary Jules Du- 
pre adopts a style between Rousseau and Troyon. 

But however great may be the originality of their 
productions, all these painters — and I insist upon this 
point — derive their inspiration from the Old Masters, 
and found their art upon the rules observed in their 
greatest works. 

Courbet comes in 1849 w * tn tne intention of over- 
throwing past art and constructing it anew. 

One day, when we were traveling together in Bel- 
gium, he mentioned the works of Raphayel (thus it was 
that he pronounced Raphael) disparagingly, and I said 
to him, " You deny his right to fame, then ? " 

" No," he replied, u I speak of him, therefore I ac- 
knowledge it." 

In the same way he spoke of Titian, and other paint- 
ers like him, with an air of patronage. 

And we know that no one had less right than he to 
do this. 

While he assumed these disdainful airs in speaking 
of the Old Masters, he studied them in the shelter of the 
obscurity which enveloped his name, soon to resound 
through the world of art. 

And what is the result ? While, with the sly secrecy 
of the peasant, he speaks only of realism, of which he 
proclaims himself the messiah, his pictures show pre- 
eminently those qualities which are learned in the muse- 
ums. His admirable compositions, run in one piece, so 
to say, the beauty of his somber coloring, his harmony 


of style, he owes in great part to those Old Masters, 
whose title to fame he deigns to acknowledge. 

His masterpiece, " After the Banquet at Ornans," in 
the museum of Lille, even to the costume, might be the 
work of a pupil of Rembrandt. 

His fine painting, u The Man with the Pipe," recalls 
Correggio. " The Man with the Leathern Girdle " looks 
as if it might have been hanging for centuries in the 
Louvre ; and, however startling his Interment may be, 
and although he has crowded it with grotesque details, 
it is in nowise realistic, since the sun does not shine in 
it, and it looks more dingy than a Ribera. 

Finally, he paints few open-air scenes. He fre- 
quently copies the patina of the Old Masters, and while 
rendering full justice to the genuine though limited gifts 
he has received from Nature, may it not be said of him 
that, like the wag who clothed himself in the livery of 
the Tuilieries to preach his revolutionary doctrines, he 
has borrowed the livery of the Louvre to preach his 
pretended discoveries? 

I may add, besides, that if on the one hand by his 
vigor he may have served to stimulate art, on the other 
hand he has propagated the most detestable of abuses — 
the use of the palette-knife, which may be attended with 
the most serious dangers. 

In contrast with him, our glorious Meissonier, who 
does more than acknowledge the title to fame of the 
Dutch artists, gives striking and triumphant proof of his 
qualities of observation, absolute conscientiousness, and 
marvelous clearness of vision. 

I will speak later on of the great Millet. At this 
time he was quite unknown, and his first exhibition in 
the next Salon was an CEdipus, a strange picture in 
which the coloring is sticky, and which is at once fantas- 
tic, odd, tame, and heavy, but through which may be 


divined a blind force seeking to free itself from powerful 
influences — a genuine but confused originality of style 
that halts between Michel Angelo and Subleyras. 

This picture, which attracted but little attention from 
the public, produced in the minds of his fellow-painters 
the emotion that told them they stood in the presence 
of dawning genius. 

This movement of art toward truth to Nature had, so 
far as form and modeling are concerned, a powerful 
leader in Ingres, who is still called Monsieur Ingres, as 
Thiers will always be called Monsieur Thiers, because 
each of them had a bourgeois side. 

He was a great and remarkable figure, this painter, 
whom Praeult wittily called a " Chinese, strayed into 

In his person, as in his style, there were surprising 

Physically he has something sacerdotal in his ap- 

Is he a dignitary of the Church or a parish beadle ? 
One can hardly tell. 

His proportions are almost grotesque. He has very 
short legs, a large abdomen, arms extraordinarily long ; 
the lower part of the face is wanting in dignity ; the 
nose is ordinary, as they say in the passports ; the chin 
is round and receding, the cheeks are large and flabby, 
the mouth is sensual, though not wanting in character : 
this is the beadle side. But the eyes and the forehead 
are extremely beautiful. The dark pupils seem to flash 
fire under the eyebrows, which indicate strong self-will, 
modified by the descending line toward the temple, in- 
dicating piety. Here we seem to see the highest digni- 
tary in the World of Art. 

The same contradiction exists in his talent. 

In the beginning a disciple of David, he fell, later on, 


under the influence of Raphael. He soon had flashes 
of sentiment, which revealed to him marvelous accents 
of nature. 

In an inspiration of genius he recognized the senti- 
ment of Phidias. Of Phidias ! The divinest incarna- 
tion of the living ideal ! Then Ingres, like another 
Polyeuctus, dethrones the false gods. Down with 
you, Venus de' Medici and Apollo Belvedere, whom our 
fathers and David himself have worshiped ! Your prog- 
eny, with their insipid beauty, their cold eyes, their 
limbs rounded like architectural moldings, is already 
numerous enough. Down with you ! And, indeed, in 
some admirable compositions he attains to ideality of 
form, expressive and beautiful without being insipid, 
graceful delineation, firm and flexible modeling, richness 
and variety of composition. 

As I have said, he attains this by flashes, for he 
places side by side beauties of the highest order, and 
defects that are ridiculous at times, making limbs which 
seem to have no joints, twisting the bones, spoiling no- 
ble conceptions by childish blunders or bourgeois vul- 

David, in whom the influences of the pretty antiques 
of the Decadence has stifled so many natural gifts — 
David, too, in his hours of freedom, had felt the power- 
ful spell of Nature, as had Gros, whose heroic genius, 
however, took bolder flights, and the valiant Gericault, 
and the tender and dramatic Prudhon ; but in the French 
school no one before Ingres had realized the formula of 
lifelike and varied composition. 

There is no doubt that, counting among its members 
the painters I have mentioned, the French school was in 
advance of every contemporary school. 

But there was something it had not yet even sought 
to attain — the relations between the human figure and 


inanimate nature. It had not yet succeeded in asso- 
ciating fully animate and inanimate life, in making the 
figures respond to the life around them, in making them 
participate in all the phenomena of the heavens and the 
earth, in making them breathe their natural element, air. 

The " Battle of Eylau " is a singularly moving drama, 
the work of a great painter, and one of our finest pict- 
ures ; but the figures are neither under the sky nor, in 
their values, on the snow. The " Shipwreck of the Medu- 
sa" is a noble and heroic composition, full of boldness 
and technical power, but the black and bituminous 
shadows are out of place, the composition is too compli- 
cated, the whole is wanting in atmosphere. The " Mas- 
sacre of Scio," the " Bark of Dante," and several others 
of the paintings of Delacroix, have the elements proper 
to them. The atmosphere, tragic and at times sublime, 
that surrounds them, is a pure creation of the genius of 
the master. So, too, is his design, wonderful for its wild 
beauties, as well as for its fascinating blemishes. Al- 
though forming his style on Rubens, Tintoretto, and the 
English school, Delacroix, whose head looked like a sick 
lion's, is a genius who must always remain alone. Woe 
to the painter who seeks to approach him ! He is not 
one of the leaders of the movement of 1848, like Rous- 
seau and Corot. 

And were there other precursors of the contemporary 
school ? 

And when I say contemporary art, I do not mean 
that which only seeks after what is called the modern 
spirit, a high-sounding name, which too often only means 
the mode. 

Art concerns itself only with eternal laws, not with 
ephemeral caprices. 

A serious attempt toward the new movement had 
also been made by an artist greatly disparaged at pres- 


ent. There is not a dauber who does not heap sarcasms 
upon him, and I must be careful how I mention his 
name. It can not be helped if I should be considered a 
bourgeois, a " philistine," as Gautier says. I will con- 
quer all false shame, and confess that I mean poor 
Leopold Robert. Whatever the errand-boys of the stu- 
dios may say, I prefer his pictures to those curiosities in 
yellow and violet of artists who seem to think they have 
a monopoly of atmosphere. 

Ah ! they may heap insult upon him, but they can 
never be as cruel to him as he was to himself, as his 
suicide proves. 

Yes ; he is theatrical, affected, hard, thin, and dis- 
cordant, but he had a clearness of vision peculiarly his 
own ; he was consumed by a love of the beautiful ! He 
was the first to make a serious study of the peasant, 
whom he loved with the ardor and sensibility of his 
poetic nature. 

His energy was great, his sincerity absolute, and the 
result, in truth, was not contemptible. He has caught 
the glow, the sun-browned hue, the fine, harmonious 

I find in his brick-red carnations certain flashes of 
blue which make them like Nature's self, and of which 
the painters who preceded him had scarcely any knowl- 
edge. He has not reached the goal, indeed, but he has 
pointed the way. 

One must read his letters to understand the dissatis- 
faction with which he regarded his pictures, so far short 
did they fall of his visions. 

And yet how enthusiastically admired he was by men 
like Lamartine, De Musset, and Heine ! 

And why is it, notwithstanding all that has been said 
against him, that he is not forgotten ; that people go to 
look at his pictures and to copy them ? 



It is because the work of an artist lives in proportion 
to what he has put into it of himself! 

He has imitators who are his superiors in technical 
skill, it may be, but posterity will forget them. Why ? 
Is it solely because they were imitators ? The originals 
they copied from might disappear, yet their work would 
survive none the longer for it. They die because being 
imitators and having nothing of their own to express, 
they have been unable to impregnate their productions 
with that elusive quality which is the soul of the artist — 
his passion, his love, his suffering, his life. 


Delalleau soon quitted architecture and returned 
to the Drolling studio. 

Every day, more and more absorbed in politics, and 
always placing himself on the side of the most advanced 
opinions, he accused me of being a reactionary, and did 
not cease to lecture me. He went beyond the truth ; I 
felt myself, on the contrary, strongly drawn toward the 
Republican party. 

We considered it a duty, as Republicans, to give the 
Royalists a piece of our mind whenever the occasion 
offered, and to take our beefsteak smelling of burned 
fat, in the restaurants of friends and brothers whose 
sign-boards bore an equilateral triangle, and where, 
when we asked for a beignet-montaguard (fritter with 
gooseberry jam), the waiter answered, " Here it is, 

We attended the clubs, sometimes taking our places 
among the audience, again as members of the commit- 
tee, and at times even remaining in the little sentry-box 


at the entrance to receive the ten centimes which each 
citizen contributed to the emancipation of the people. 
All this conferred some importance upon us, but, to 
speak the truth, we were somewhat in the position of 
the fly on the coach-wheel. 

But it was not long before I returned to Courrieres, 
whither I was called by the alarming state of my father's 
health, and my longing for home. 


I should like to throw a veil over this sojourn at 
Courrieres — a time which has left me so many gloomy 
memories. Courrieres, too, had had its little revolu- 

My father and my uncle, who had always taken a 
great interest in public affairs, and were very popular, 
had long been at war with the former authorities of the 
village, who were animated, for the most part, by a 
spirit of selfishness and routine. 

My father had sustained the struggle with calmness, 
but my uncle, who was of a more ardent temperament, 
and who had long before given utterance to his repub- 
lican sentiments, notably in his History of Courrieres, 
and in the letters which he published later under the 
title of Miseres Morales, had given a rude shock to the 
self-willed obstinacy, the vanity, and at times the bad 
faith of our municipal functionaries. 

At the first news of the events in Paris, the people 
of the village had flocked to the house of my father, who 
was then ill, and, insisting on having him for their mayor, 
had carried him in triumph to the town-hall with such 
demonstrations of enthusiasm, that, moved to tears, he 



cried out : " Thanks, my children, enough ; you will 
make me die of joy ! " 

Alas ! this joy was of short duration. He found 
himself involved in a thousand difficulties in his private 
affairs. He had sold fine estates which brought a regu- 
lar income, in order to buy a part of the forest of the 
Armerois in the Belgian Ardennes. (His passion for 
forests will be remembered.) He had gone to great ex- 
pense in making roads and other improvements, and 
just as he was about to reap the benefit of this outlay, 
he felt that his end was drawing near (he never confided 
his troubles to any one), and he at that time resolved 
to establish my brother Louis in the brewery, and Emile 
in another factory, which he had caused to be built at 
great cost. 

The Revolution having destroyed credit, he was 
forced to sell the forest, which he did under disastrous 

Little by little we felt the embarrassments occasioned 
by diminished resources, but all we thought of was the 
illness of my father, who soon quitted us, leaving my 
uncle to bear the whole burden. He died on the nth 
of May, 1848, from an affection of the liver, complicated 
with heart-disease. 

The grief caused by this loss rendered my brothers 
and myself almost insensible to the ruin which threat- 
ened soon to overwhelm us. I will say nothing of this 
grief, nor of the tears shed by the worthy peasants, at 
the interment of this good man. 

The law permitted us to accept our inheritance with- 
out making ourselves responsible for the payment of the 
debts of the estate beyond the amount of the assets. 
We refused to cast this insult on my father's venerated 
memory. We accepted our inheritance with all its re- 


We were rewarded for this. The creditors, too, were 
grateful to us, for having given up our mother's property 
which we had the right to claim. The consideration 
enjoyed by our family suffered in no way from this re- 
verse of fortune, although our ruin brought with it that 
of my uncle also. Notwithstanding this, he was unani- 
mously elected mayor, in place of his brother, and after- 
ward he was elected councilor of the district. 

My father was born in 1796, and my uncle in 1798. 
They were the sons of Lambert Breton and Catharine 
Hottin. I have already related a part of the life of my 
grandfather. The brothers Breton were still very young 
when they lost their parents. My father was brought up 
at Courrieres in the house of his guardian, Isidore 
Lecocq, the husband of the Cousin Catherine, with 
whom you are already acquainted.* You know the rest. 

My uncle, then a child in arms, was carried to Wa- 
waghies, to the house of his Grandmother Hottin, and 
there he grew up in the sylvan solitude of the woods. 
He ran among the hedges, wild as a little savage, spend- 
ing his time in childish sports with little playmates as 
wild as himself. 

This education, or, rather this absence of education, 
inspired him with a profound love for sylvan nature, at 
whose vivifying springs he had early drunk. 

How many poetic descriptions he has given me of 
those long-past days, descriptions which have contrib- 
uted to develop in me a passion for the beauties of na- 
ture ! 

At the age of twelve he returned to Courrieres to at- 
tend the village school, where a master more pretentious 
than learned gave him the only instruction he ever re- 

He surrounded himself with books, which he read 
with avidity ; he labored indefatigably to store his mind 


with knowledge, taking notes from every book he read, 
digested this medley as best he could, and when he went 
to Lille, at the age of eighteen, to enter business, he 
surprised everybody by the extent of his learning. He 
was employed in various banking and business houses, 
his employers all entertaining a strong friendship for 
him, and having implicit confidence in him. 

He spent all his savings in adding to his stock of 
books and knowledge, studying in his leisure hours ; he 
filled many copy-books with notes, dipped into various 
sciences, and learned music. In the evenings he would 
go to the theatre or to some party. 

His visit to our house during my mother's lifetime 
will be remembered. You know how, after her death, 
he came to live with us in order to devote himself to our 
education. I need say no more. This tells what he was. 

His mind was a veritable encyclopaedia. Lack of 
method, however, always prevented him from systema- 
tizing his knowledge. 

With all this, he was simple-hearted in the extreme 
and devoted to us beyond measure. 

What would we have been without him ? 

If grief for my father's death and the indifference 
to material interests natural to youth made us view our 
approaching ruin with comparative indifference, such 
was not the case with my uncle, who regarded our future 
as blighted. 

He displayed an indefatigable activity, leaving no 
stone unturned to avert the impending catastrophe. 

He had moments of keen anguish. 

One day when he was going to Lille to try to avert 
the disgrace of a protested note, he arrived too late for 
the train at the station of Libercourt. 

He was thus obliged, with despair in his soul, to 
wait two or three hours for another train. 



Distressed in mind as he was, he found it impossible 
to remain in a state of inaction. 

In front of the station the woods of Libercourt and 
Wawaghies, where he had spent his happy childhood, 
began. He plunged into them, walking on at random. 
He saw again the paths his childish feet had trod, and 
which still bore, so to speak, traces of the sports of his 
youthful days. Here he had played cricket. There he 
had shot with the bow and arrow, and he remembered 
how once, when he had hit the bull's-eye, his little play- 
mates had carried him in triumph. 

He thinks he hears again their clear and joyous 
shouts, he breathes again the perfume of the lily of the 
valley, the pungent aroma of the oaks. A thousand 
recollections rend his soul, making his anguish keener, 
and the temptation to end his life begins to assail him. 
He walks on. He arrives at an opening where two 
roads meet. Here an old oak rises up before him. 

Close to the trunk of this tree is a little chapel of 
worm-eaten wood, wreathed with hawthorn and withered 
flowers. He recognizes it ; it was there when he was a 
child. This sends his thoughts back to the past. He 

On leaving Wawaghies, at the age of twelve, he had 
been accompanied thus far by the little Helene, a gen- 
tle child, who soon afterward died. They were only 
simple children, but they loved each other. Their part- 
ing was full of sorrow. They knelt down before the 
Virgin of the little chapel and repeated a pure prayer 
which must have moved to pity the birds flying past. 
And my uncle remembered all this, and he, the philoso- 
pher, the disciple of Fourier, the pupil of Voltaire and 
Rousseau, threw himself on his knees and prayed to 
this Madonna hidden in the heart of the forest. 

His courage revived ; he went to Lille and made his 



situation known to a true friend, who came to his as- 

I shall dwell no longer on our misfortunes. Some 
time afterward we settled our affairs under the disas- 
trous conditions which those who passed through the 
crisis of 1848 will remember. Nothing brought at the 
sale a fourth of its value. All was lost save honor. 

And we returned to our occupations with sixty or 
eighty thousand francs of debts before us. Little by 
little we paid them all off. 

The brewery was our plank of safety. A friend had 
bought it, rented it to us, and afterward sold it to us. 
It was bid for eagerly for the same reasons that made 
us desire to keep it. Louis continued to manage it. 

£mile enlisted in the Sixty-sixth of the line, and set 
out for Toulouse, where that regiment then was. 

My uncle and I remained for some time longer in 
the empty house now bereft of its master. 

All the furniture had been sold, as well as the fine 
wines so highly esteemed by our friends, and the figures 
painted by Fremy. 

A little white wooden table supporting a common 
wash-basin replaced the former furniture of my room. 
I saw this bareness without grief. I need not say with 
what my sad thoughts were occupied. 

And when more tranquil hours came, when new 
blossoms of happiness opened in my heart — flowers sud- 
denly springing into bloom amid ruins, joys that I re- 
proached myself with, regarding them as the rebellious 
protest of selfishness, but which were the more irre- 
sistible as being the secret agencies of the immutable 
laws of compensation and reaction — then I found an in- 
describable charm in this modest wooden table, which 
seemed to symbolize rural simplicity, and in thinking 
that henceforward I was to be poor. 


It was something like a relief to be rid of so many 
artificial and useless objects, and I felt a stronger sen- 
timent of fraternity than before with the peasants whom 
I had always loved, and whom I began to regard with 
stronger affection in the lull succeeding so much anguish 
and so many misfortunes. 

Like them, we began to wear the blouse ; we min- 
gled more intimately with them in their reunions and 
amusements, and we have never found them to fail in 
respect toward us, or to presume on our familiarity. 

Thus it was that there grew up in my artist-heart a 
stronger affection for the nature, the obscure acts of 
heroism, and the beauty of the lives of the peasantry 
fostered by the pure joy and the fruitful peace which 
the spectacle of the immensity of the plains receding 
into silence and infinity produces in the soul. 


But, if it be true that I had never felt more strongly 
than now this peace, this joy that is to be found in na- 
ture, I did not yet understand its value from an artistic 
point of view. 

I had, in reality, never tried to paint nature. My 
ideal was still to be found exclusively in the museums. 

And in the works of the great masters I was much 
more impressed by external form, imposed upon them 
by the circumstances of their surroundings, than by the 
essential qualities of their pictures, those qualities that, 
developed by a profound study of natural laws, consti- 
tute their eternal essence. I thought them beautiful 
chiefly because of their subjects, beautiful in them- 
selves, the expression of which they had succeeded in 


realizing, and which I believed to be no longer in exist- 
ence, and to be sought for only in the history of the 

" Happy the painters," I thought, " who had only to 
open their eyes to see marvels." I never suspected that 
these marvels are everywhere around us. 

I should never have insulted Phidias by supposing 
that that little gleaner bending yonder over the stubble 
could for a single moment attract his attention. 

I did not comprehend Phidias sufficiently, or rather 
I knew too little of nature to be aware that the im- 
mutable laws which governed the creations of the great 
sculptor manifest themselves also in the attitude and 
the forms of this humble peasant, with her rags float- 
ing in the breeze. 

I had not yet sought inspiration in the recollections 
of my childhood, that mysterious world that in mature 
years seems clothed in light. I had not yet found (for 
though it be true that there is nothiag new under the 
sun, we must discover everything anew, or else be copy- 
ists) that what is best is what we have unconsciously 
felt at the outset of life when we first opened our eyes 
to the light, and that what is most beautiful in the world 
is to be met with everywhere. A truth too evident to be 
at once accepted as such. 

Ignorance admires only what is not simple, and is 
affected or labored in expressing itself. 

An epoch must pass through a stage of affectation, 
artificiality, and false refinement before it returns to a 
comprehension of the simple in art. 

This ignorance, and the sympathy I felt for the dis- 
inherited of fortune, turned me at first toward melodra- 
matic subjects taken from the life of the people. I was 
impelled to this by my recollection, still vivid, of the 
scenes of the Revolution, which passed continually be- 


fore my mind. I thought to attain great results by vio- 
lent means. 

I had tried in vain to make some use of my sketch 
in the garden of the Luxembourg. In the painting I 
made from it, the first impression was wanting. The 
result was pitiable. Then I painted a " Susannah in the 
Bath," according to the rules learned in the studio ; but 
this little picture, which I keep for my punishment, is so 
bad that if a student of twenty were to bring me one 
like it I should say, " Go, and become a bricklayer ! " 

When it happens now that I am hurt by a criticism 
which I think unjust, I say to myself by way of consola- 
tion : " Do not forget that you painted a * Susannah in 
the Bath,' and that you could not then dream of ever 
obtaining a quarter of the success you have since ob- 
tained ! " 

In this state of discouragement I had a vision one 
night, when I was unable to sleep, of a lugubrious com- 

I saw a garret. A woman was lying there on a mis- 
erable pallet. Her face was livid, her cheeks hollow, 
her eyes red with weeping, her clothes in tatters. Half 
rising out of the sinister shadow, she clasped to her with- 
ered breast, with her emaciated arm, an infant with 
frightful agony depicted on its countenance, while with 
her other thin and bony hand she clutched the blouse 
of her husband, who was breaking from her in a parox- 
ysm of desperation. 

Arrested for a moment in his course, he turns 
toward her, but he is inflexible ; he grasps his musket, 
with the purpose of going to the barricade that is seen 
through the window, in the frame of which is a bullet- 
hole that lets the light enter, and it is in vain that the 
crucifix suspended to the wall under a branch of box, 
seems to plead for pity. 



With the purpose of painting this picture, I started 
at once for Ghent, after I had given the last touches to 
a little portrait of my mother which I had painted 
from a poor pastel made by an itinerant art t who had 
passed through our village in 1829 This pastel, which 
possessed no merit as a work of art, has since been lost. 
What would I not give to recover it ! Little merit as 
it had, at least it was painted from nature. Perhaps 
now, with greater experience, I might be able to disen- 
tangle from it what the simple artist saw, and unite with 
his rude observation my still vivid remembrance of that 
sacred shade who mingled her life forever with mine 
in the effusion of her first caresses. 


De Vigne no longer lived in the Rue de la Line. 
He had built a pretty house, the first fruits of his sav- 
ings, in the Rue Charles V, a handsome street recently 
created among the fields. 

My friends were shocked at the horrible nature of 
my subject, and at my intention of painting it life-size. 
This experiment had, in fact, scarcely any precedent. 
Courbet had not yet revealed himself. 

And then was I capable of executing it ? 

Evidently not ! 

What need to undertake so horrible a subject ? 

No matter. I put on a bold face. Why should I 
take the sentimentalism of the vulgar into considera- 
tion ? 

Was I not one of the people ? Had we not just 
overthrown all tyranny ? 

I set to work on my picture, then, with ardor, with- 



out listening to the remonstrances of my friends. In 
vain De Vigne made me observe that I was exaggerat- 
ing the expression, that my coloring, through my efforts 
to make it dramatic, was coarse and muddy ; in vain 
the artists of the place said among themselves that it 
was painted all with one color. I put the last touch to it, 
and then bravely signed my name. 

Strange power of contrast ; while my imagination 
was plunged among these tenebrous shadows, the gentle 
daughter of the house would often glide to my side with 
frightened eyes whenever any errand chanced to call 
her to her father's studio. 

She passed silently and seriously. There was no 
more dancing her on my knees. 

She was now twelve years old. Strange and mysteri- 
ous emotions were agitating her. At times she would 
burst into fits of laughter which she could not control, 
and which ended in a torrent of apparently causeless 

She was the first in her class in all her studies, and 
would tell charming little stories full of unconscious 
drolleries. She was still a child of the Middle Ages. 
Her first words on returning from school at midday 
were always, " I am so hungry ! " The hunger-pang 
of a little growing angel. 


I became more intimate with Delalleau every day. 
In the spring of 1849 we hired together a studio and 
two little rooms under the roof, at No. 53 Rue Notre- 
Dame-des-Champs. I saw recently, with regret, that 
this house had been rebuilt. 



The moderateness of the price — 350 fra xs — and the 
neighborhood of the Luxembourg, had a ided our 

I was alone there in the beginning. Delalleau was 
in the Pas-de-Calais, taking sketches in the neighborhood 
of Hesdin, his native place. He wrote me letters from 
there that were every day more and more enthusiastic, 
in which politics were mingled with the raptures pro- 
duced in his mind by the beautiful scenery of Artois. 

My picture, which I called " Want and Despair," 
was at the Tuileries, where the exhibition was to be 

I had learned with inexpressible delight, through an 

indiscretion on the part of L. D , my door-keeper 

of the Louvre, at this time attached to the service of the 
Salon, that it had been accepted. He acquainted me 
with all that passed there. My picture was hung in the 
Orangery, on the wall fronting the quay. I went to see 
from the outside the precise spot where it must be hang- 

As to the effect it produced, I could not form to my- 
self any exact idea. While I was painting it, it had ap- 
peared to me every day under a different aspect, accord- 
ing to the weather or my mood. 

What I saw oftenest in it was my vision of the night. 
Surely it must express what I had so clearly seen. And 

then the good D had prophesied wonders in regard 

to it. 

This state of anxious suspense lasted six entire 
weeks ! 

And when I say that during all this time I did not 
sleep, it is not a figure of speech. I did not sleep for a 
single instant. I tried in vain baths, opium, and various 
other remedies recommended by friends of mine who 
were students at the School of Medicine. 


This state of things had disordered my stomach. I 
felt some symptoms which alarmed me for a time, for 
around me, as in every other quarter of Paris, cholera 
was raging. The thought of the plague did not serve to 
enliven my hours of sleeplessness. What if I should 
have the misfortune to fall a victim to it before the 
opening of the Salon / 

It came at last, this long-wished for day! Delalleau 
had returned. We hurried to the Orangery. From the 
moment of our entrance, I perceived from afar those 
wretched figures, melancholy and gray, too well-known, 
though so different from those I had seen in my vision. 
In vain Delalleau declared that the painting was full of 
energy, that the vigor of its coloring and design made 
the pictures around seem weak. I saw that my tragic 
vision of the night would have done better to wait for a 
less inexpert interpreter. 

Later on, this picture was rolled up and hidden away 
in a damp corner of the studio. When I went to unroll 
it, it fell to pieces. In fine, five or six newspapers had 
mentioned it, and I was not altogether dissatisfied with 
my debut. 

This was not the last of my attempts, however, in this 
lugubrious line. I thought of a composition more hor- 
rible still — " Hunger." This latter picture was exhib- 
ited at Paris in 1850, and afterward at Ghent and Brus- 
sels, where it obtained some degree of success. 

It still exists, but in a deplorable condition. It is 
the common fate of all large first paintings to be rolled up, 
and put away in some corner to make room for others. 
Mine had already suffered in consequence of this treat- 
ment when I presented it to the Museum of Arras, 
where an ignorant picture-restorer finished the work of 
destruction by repairing the canvas in such a manner that 
it seems to have as many waves in it as a sea in a storm. 



Were it not for the dark track left by the cholera 
this year, 1849, would have been a happy one, especially 
in comparison with my recent misfortunes. I painted 
with ardor, and, however imperfect my works might be, 
I created. And creation is happiness. 

The painting " Want and Despair," still hanging on 
the wall, and that of " Hunger," resting on the easel, did 
not tend, it is true, to give a cheerful air to the studio, 
somewhat gloomy in itself, and where some rough 
sketches brought back by Delalleau from Artois were 
the only cheerful notes. 

But when we emerged from its gray light in our 
hours of rest, the sun seemed to shine all the more 
brightly in the Garden of Marie de Medicis, a few steps 
away, where he darted his arrows among the foliage of 
the beautiful chestnut trees, and lighted up with vivid 
flames the pomegranate blossoms. How beautiful this 
garden was then and how happy we were in it, our 
somber visions locked safely in behind our studio door. 

For Delalleau, who was so gay, also painted gloomy 

Notwithstanding his rage for politics, he astonished 
us by the rapid progress he made. He was now engaged 
on a picture which Th^ophile Gautier, in the next Salon, 
praised highly, "A Convoy of Hungarian Prisoners" 
crossing the steppes under the conduct of some Austrian 

It showed deep feeling, some originality, and a true 
dramatic sense. I do not know where this picture, his 
first and best one, now is. 

It was at this time that we began to give our atten- 
tion to painting the figure in the open air. 


Yes, it was in the hard and cold light of this gloomy 
studio that we dreamed of the dazzling splendors of 
diffused light. 

The germ of this idea was due to a new acquaint- 
ance who had lately become an habitual visitor to our 
studio — Eugene Gluck. 

I had become acquainted with him at the restaurant 
where I dined ; he always sat at the same table, one 
near mine, and one day we entered into conversation, & 
propos of a street organ which was playing the air of 
Gastibelza outside the door in so dismal a tremolo that 
I fancied I could see the quivering lips of Ribera's won- 
derful " St. Bartholomew " flayed alive, which was then 
in our Spanish gallery, where there were also many other 
remarkable paintings of which our younger artists have 
no knowledge. 

I could not help telling my neighbor of this absurd 
fancy, in which he recognized the painter. He acknowl- 
edged that he was a painter himself, and with that abso- 
lute trustfulness which is the charm of youth, we soon 
became friends. 

He had had in the Exhibition, also in the Orangery, 
and facing "Want and Despair," a little picture, " A 
Roman Battle," in the style of Guignet. We must have 
seen each other, therefore, since, unluckily, we had both 
watched our pictures there. 

He often came to our studio. 

His thoughts were greatly occupied by certain grand 
effects of local color without shade, which he had ob- 
served in some old tapesteries, in certain specimens of 
Gothic art, and even in the works of Paul Veronese. 

He had observed, too, that objects in the street are 
also lighted in this broad, clear, simple manner, and he 
had remarked, besides, how favorable this lighting, that 
no vexatious accident can interfere with, is to the sum 



of the values, and also what style and charm the charac- 
ter of the face receives from this unity. 

And Gluck was the first to call this outdoor paint- 


I dined at the restaurant of a wine merchant named 
Comeau. This was a house that stood alone, in the 
middle of the Place St.-Germain-des-Pres, facing the 

Baudry lived on the sixth floor of this house exposed 
to all the winds of heaven. 

In front of it stood a very tall pole, which towered 
above the roofs of the neighboring houses, and which 
served as a beacon and point of observation for the 
opening of the Rue Bonaparte, a work which had just 

A new-comer in Drolling's studio had been made be- 
lieve that this pole had been erected in Bau dry's honor, 
because he had taken the second Prix de Rome. 

I went every day, then, to Comeau's, to spend there 
the eighteen or twenty sous which my dinner usually 
cost me. 

The summer of 1849 was a magnificent one, and it 
was under the light of a brilliant and unclouded sun 
that I saw the long line of hearses, constantly swelled 
by fresh victims to the terrible scourge, filing through 
the streets. 

Sometimes there were not hearses enough to supply 
the demand, and carts were employed in the lugubrious 
service of carrying the dead. 

In the end people grew accustomed to this, and 
ceased to take any notice of it. But an indefinable 


gloom filled the soul, and seemed to darken the rays of 
the sun, as if they came through a black crape veil. 
The recollection of this time comes back to me like a 
time of eclipse, where I see the red faces of the under- 
taker's men, unfailingly gay, flash out laughing. 

In the streets one felt, as on a battle-field, always in 
danger of being struck down without warning, as if there 
were more safety to be found within the walls of a house. 

On one of those days, as I was walking at noon to 
the restaurant, my eyes fixed absently on Baudry's pole, 
my thoughts lost in revery, I suddenly cried " Louis ! " 
and we rushed into each other's arms. 

Louis, whom I had thought at Courrieres, was there 
before me in the Place St.-Germain-des-Pres ! It 
was indeed his sunny blonde head. (Those who re- 
member him at the age of twenty know that he resembled 
the Apollo in the " Olympus " of Rubens.) It was he. 

I took him with me into Comeau's, praising the ex- 
cellence of the haricot to be had there, and we sat down 
to dine. 

My brother said he thought this famous ragout too 
greasy, and ate nothing but an artichoke a la vinaigrette. 
In reality, the pleasure of our meeting had taken away 
his appetite. 

As for me, I swallowed, without knowing what I was 
eating, artichoke and haricot together, talking all the 
time with my mouth full, asking and answering ques- 

The cholera had been appalling down there too — I 
had not heard it. Now it was nearly over; hardly any 
serious cases. The sweating-sickness — oh, yes ! plenty 
of cases of that — such a one was dead, and such another. 
And such another. Some one else had been so much 
afraid that he had remained the whole time in bed, al- 
though he was not sick. My uncle had been terribly 


distressed at so much misery; they had gone together 
every day to see that the sick wanted for nothing — to 
encourage them — to restore their confidence — to prevent 
people flying from the place. In the village everything 
is noticed ; every one knows every one. 

Then, having satisfied our curiosity, having talked 
about Emile, our dear little pioupiou^ then in garrison at 
Romans, who had just been made a corporal, we gave 
ourselves up to the pleasure of being together, letting 
our thoughts wander where they would. 

We went for a walk in the streets, turning our steps 
wherever chance directed, talking ceaselessly, without 
stopping to think whether our words were silly or not. 
We called this " talking our little nonsense." Indeed, 
it was nonsense without head or tail. We rattled on 
in this way, as the birds twitter because they must give 
utterance to their happiness in some form, nothing 
more. But as this happiness has something of delirium 
in it, it would be illogical to follow the rules of common 
sense in giving expression to it. 

It was, on a small scale, the fine disorder of the ode, 
including every measure, mixmgpatois and French, affect- 
ed conceits and foolish solemn phrases, heroic declama- 
tions, pious and earnest aspirations, puns in prose and 
verse, scraps of crazy sentences, all of which, nonsensi- 
cal or droll, expressed the joy of having near one a be- 
loved being, of knowing that all that either possesses 
belongs to the other also, that neither has a feeling 
which does not find an echo in the other's heart, of be- 
ing conscious, in short, that the hearts of both are light- 
ened by this exchange of tenderness ; and is it not this 
that makes the birds twitter ? 

And meantime, what of the cholera ? We had for- 
gotten all about it. 

Next day we went to Meudon, Paris net being in 


harmony with the state of our feelings. We found this 
place also too noisy for us. 

It was the/^-day of the village. 

When we arrived there we saw a cruel thing. Some 
peasants, the greater number of them under the influ- 
ence of wine, were gathered in animated groups around 
a goose suspended from a sort of osier basket, out of 
which hung his neck and head like the mouth-piece of 
a clarionet. One of the rustics, blindfolded and with a 
sword in his hand, was describing circles in the air with 
his arms, and, feeling his way with all sorts of precau- 
tions, which he tried to make as comical as possible, 
was advancing toward the feathered victim. 

When he thought himself near the desired spot, he 
gave a violent blow in the air with the sword, which 
made him stagger, and loud bursts of laughter followed. 

We left those people to their amusement, and took 
an ascending road to our left, walking straight on. 

The ascent was a little steep, and the sun burned 
our necks, but the air was so pure, and the verdure so 
fresh ! 

We entered a wood. 

Soon we felt the pangs of hunger. We came very 
opportunely across a keeper's lodge, which on/^-days 
was transformed into a restaurant for straggling excur- 
sionists. We espied a leafy bower with benches and a 
worm-eaten table inside. 

Ah ! how pleasant it was sitting there ! 

On the rising ground before us was the pretty wood 
of Meudon. Our chatter, which we left off for a mo- 
ment to take breath, began again with more animation 
than ever, this time accompanied by real birds' notes. 

They served us, under the name of veal au petit pois, 
the best dish I have ever eaten in my life. 

And not you, Romanee Conti, nor you, Vannes or 


Charabertin, once the pride of the paternal cellar, could 
equal the thin wine we drank here. 

We drank a little too much of it. 

After the coffee and a good pipe, we plunged into 
the wood, where brilliant bursts of sunshine streamed 
through the branches of the trees, lighting up a little 
path, capricious as the bounds of a goat. What an in- 
tensity of life we felt ! 

But what is that we see yonder — that dark pink and 
blue object ? We draw near. Oh, ravishing sight ! 

On a knoll a young girl lay sleeping, like a rustic 
Antiope. She lay there, looking cool under the furtive 
caresses of the sun, with closed eyes and parted lips, 
while the sunlight, sifting through the waving branches 
of an oak, flickered on her face. The play of the light 
and shade gave an appearance of motion to her immov- 
able form. A thousand pearly tints trembled on the 
sun-lighted face where the effulgence of the azure sky 
blended with the golden and rosy gleams cast by the 
glowing herbage. 

Less bold than the satyrs of Coreggio or Titian, we 
admired her from a respectful distance. 

Then with dazzled eyes we took the road leading to 
Meudon and continued our chatter. 

We sat down by the wayside, near the station. Night 
was approaching. 

The setting sun shot his fiery arrows, spreading out 
like a fan, through the branches of the acacias. Laden 
with perfume, the peaceful breath of sleeping Nature 
came to us through the blossom-laden boughs. 



The Exhibition of 1851 was held in the Palais- Royal, 
in the court-yard of which a large wooden building had 
been erected. 

My picture was hung in the Square Hall, so high 
that it could scarcely be seen. 

Courbet, who had not been much noticed at the pre- 
ceding Salon, attracted a great deal of attention on this 
occasion with his " Interment at Ornans." 

The singular power manifested in this half-tragic, 
half-grotesque picture, gave rise to the liveliest discus- 
sions. It was bitterly criticised ; the red faces of the 
beadles especially were almost universally found fault 
with. But it was impossible to deny that here was a 
painter who showed, along with his contempt for public 
opinion, a rare force of expression. This picture seemed 
to breathe a funereal horror that was Shakespearian in 
its power. 

At this same Exhibition appeared " The Sower," of 
Millet, his first effort in the rural genre. This picture, 
which was hung too high, was scarcely noticed by the 
general public, but the connoisseurs in art were much 
struck by it. They found in it a fullness of action and 
a broadness of conception, which made it stand out in 
bold relief from the pictures around it. When I say 
rural genre, however, in speaking of this composition, I 
do not mean to say that we have here a page from nature ; 
it is a sort of allegorical representation of agriculture. 
Millet has seen this peasant through the medium of his 
epic visions, still influenced by his recollections of the 
classic school. The sower has, himself, the conscious- 
ness of the majesty of his attitude ; he is declamatory. 

The effect of the picture is black. Millet has not yet 


found the mysterious charm, acquired later on in his si- 
lent walks through the fields, which will bestow a beauty 
even on ugliness. 


After the Exhibition I went again to Ghent, for the 
purpose of painting a picture for the church of Cour- 
rieres — a "Baptism of Christ." 

I had longed to find myself again in the midst of 
the pleasant Flemish life, of which I cherished so many 
tender recollections. 

I found De Vigne painting a " Marriage in the Mid- 
dle Ages," and De Winne who, like ourselves, had 
taken up subjects of a not very amusing nature, work- 
ing at a " Monk Consoling a Dying Woman." 

I exhibited my picture " Hunger " at a small exhi- 
bition, and I must say that it produced so powerful an 
impression on some pretty women who were looking at 
it as to draw tears from them, a thing which touched me 

I was happy to find myself once more among my 
excellent friends, and I set to work on my picture with 
confidence. If I had thought it an easy task, I soon 
found myself greatly mistaken. I sought in vain after 
the harmony I had dreamed of, and found it impossible 
to fix on canvas the face which, in my imagination, was 
so beautiful. I began it all over again twenty times. I 
became disheartened. 

Was this solely because of my humiliating failure, or 
was there some other cause for it ? A moral disquietude 
took possession of me. 

I had dark fits of spleen, during which I wandered 
about alone. I chose for these solitary walks the de- 


serted streets of the suburbs. I think the weather had 
something to do with my sadness, for I have a recollec- 
tion of a leaden sun, and a high wind whirling about 
clouds of dust that blinded the eyes. I have since ex- 
perienced weather as disagreeable, however, without 
feeling the same discomfort. 

At about eleven o'clock, before dinner, I would 
leave the studio and go down. to the parlor, where my 
little favorite was practicing her pieces for the conserv- 
atory, with abrupt movements of the head at the difficult 
passages, the elbows sticking out a little, the shoulder- 
blades slightly projecting. 

She was now fourteen, but she still wore short dress- 
es. Age of bewitching awkwardness, when the rounded 
curves of the child are lengthening out into the sharp 
angles of growing girlhood ! 

Her dark eyes, full of a serious candor, but with 
something mysterious in their depths, no longer sent 
forth those flashes of gentle gayety which had so often 
rejoiced my heart in the long past days when she would 
clasp her little arms around my neck as I danced her on 
my knees. 

I took an unflagging interest in her studies, and be- 
sieged her with my counsels. My earnestness frightened 
her ; she had responded to it by marks of impatience 
that I had misinterpreted, taking them for aversion. I 
had thereupon scolded the little ingrate. She had melted 
into tears, but her attitude had not changed. 

But after all, what rights had I over her ? 

Why was I displeased when I saw that she was more 
familiar with De Winne, whom she called simply 
"Winne," than with me whom she called ''Monsieur 
Jules " ? She had an unquestionable right to prefer 
him to me. And then what reason had I to suppose 
that she hated me ? 


In a trip that we had just made, accompanied by her 
mother, to Antwerp, had she not been gay and playful 
with me ? 

And was it not very disagreeable of me to be forever 
preaching to her ? 

And when I brought her home flowers, or other 
trifles, from my Sunday walks, she accepted them amia- 

One day I went to the conservatory to hear her play; 
she played well, and, in my haste to congratulate her, I 
went to the staircase landing to meet her. 

She soon made her appearance, accompanied by her 
little friends. I advanced toward her, but seeing me 
thus unexpectedly, she turned her head aside, and 
walked on in silence, looking pale and confused. 

" Decidedly," I said to myself, " that girl has no 
heart ! " 

A few days later, however, I saw her returning from 
the school after the distribution of the prizes. She had 
seven or eight wreaths in her hands, and as many more 
handsome gilt books ; and, far from being gay, she was 
weeping bitterly. She had just bade farewell to her 
teachers, whom she was leaving forever. She had a 
heart for others, then ! And when I left Ghent I took 
with me a counter-drawing, taken secretly from a por- 
trait I had made of her charming face. 

My picture had made scarcely any progress during 
all this time — this impracticable head of Christ that I was 
always beginning over again ! Delalleau, whom I neg- 
lected, overwhelmed-me with reproaches in letters eight 
pages long, in which he vaunted his own valor, and in 
which such phrases as the following were thrown at me : 
" Yesterday I went to Versailles, and I thought of you 
as I looked at the leaden turtles, which are good for 
nothing but to serve as water-spouts." 


At last I departed, leaving my unfinished " Baptism 
of Christ " and the dream, full of mysterious uncertain- 
ties, that haunted me for the following year. 


It was now 1852. De Winne, having received a 
small pension from the Government, had come to Paris 
to pay me a visit. 

We occupied together a rather large apartment, for- 
merly used as a bookseller's shop, at No. 85 Boule- 
vard de Montparnasse. We divided it, by means of a 
large curtain of lutestring, into a studio and a bedroom. 
Two small iron bedsteads, costing eight francs, and a 
few tabourets and easels comprised all the furniture. 
Gluck shared the studio with us. Our windows opened 
on a little garden planted with trees where (and this 
will serve to give some idea of its solitude) we one day 
caught a snake. 

The whole cost us two hundred francs a year. We 
managed ourselves our housekeeping, disorderly enough, 
as may be imagined. Our abode was at once humble 
and gay. A house of the time of Louis XVI, with a 
pediment, of a single story, verdure in the court, verdure 
in the street. 

We soon found congenial companions in the neigh- 
borhood. Brion, the family of Auguste Fauvel, Tabar, 
Travies, Dock, Bartholdi, Schutzemberger, and later, 
Nazon, Gerome, and Toulmouche. We worked hard, 
and our four walls were soon covered with verdant 
sketches. No more lugubrious subjects ! 

For we were digging away at outdoor painting. 

The station of Montparnasse was close at hand. In 


the morning we set out for Clamart, Meudon, or Chaville, 
carrying our panels, our boxes, and our umbrellas, joy- 
ous and bold, as if we were going to conquer the world. 
They might have talked to us in vain of the studio and 
the school. From the outside of our coach we saw the 
houses and the monuments of Paris My past, and it was 
not unwittily that I compared the small, smooth dome 
of the observatory to the bald head of a member of the 
Institute. Each day Nature revealed new secrets to us, 
and our eyes, eager to search into her mysteries, found 
ever new delights. 

How many harmonies, long vaguely dreamed of, did 
our work suddenly reveal to us ! 

There were slopes of green and pink heather, land- 
slips of red earth, lighted by the beams of the setting 
sun, while from dazzling breaks in the sky showers of 
light poured into the dark solitude of the underwood 
covered with dead leaves, giving it the dappled appear- 
ance of a deer-skin. There were, too, interminable 
white walls, on which the lights and shadows danced 
capriciously, running zigzag along the forest through 
pleasant vegetation, their base hidden among the thick 
leaves of the nettles, and, shaded by leafy oaks, were 
sunny meadows starred with yellow and blue flowers, 
where at times a donkey grazed peacefully, while his 
cart, its shafts raised in the air, rested by the roadside, 
and finally, far away in the blue distance, like an ocean 
crowded with motionless vessels, were the broad zones, 
pierced with a thousand gleaming points, of the great 

Enchanting suburbs of Paris, we thought there was 
nothing in the world to equal you ! Ah ! if my poor 
Courrieres had only contained a quarter of your mar- 
vels ! 

It was still the suburbs, but with a mixture of rus- 


ticity, that we found at St. Nom la Breteche, where we 
spent some time, and where I conceived my first " Return 
of the Harvesters." Delalleau came to join us here. 
These where the last hours that we were to spend in 
community. The difference in our characters, growing 
more marked every day, rendered life in common diffi- 
cult. I saw him again occasionally at the exhibitions, 
in which he took part several times, but without ever 
again meeting the semi-success obtained by his " Hun- 
garians." He had the baffled expression characteristic 
of men who have been disappointed in their ambitions. 
He had been so confident of success ! He could never 
recover from the painful surprise with which he found 
he had been left behind on the road. This is what one 
of our comrades, the now celebrated Vandremer, said to 
me, not long since. 

Delalleau made an imprudent marriage and retired 
to a little village of Artois, named Lumbres. He died 
there in obscurity, in 1865, at the age of thirty-nine, 
after a long and painful illness, of a malady induced 
perhaps, by secret chagrins. 

Poor friend ! He sleeps there under the shadow of 
a weeping ash, and so utterly forgotten that the mildew 
of the lichens corroding the stone has effaced his name. 
This was the end of so many dreams of fame ! 


Unhappily it was impossible for me to execute my 
picture "The Return of the Harvesters" in the country 
with real peasants for models. I had no study except 
at Paris. I was obliged to be satisfied, therefore, with 
professional models. 


Besides, I could stay no longer in the inn of Plre la 
Joie at La Breteche, for the exclusive diet of pork, to 
which we had been confined for the last six weeks, and 
which we had at every meal and under every form, had 
kindled a veritable fire in my digestive apparatus. I 
was for a long time, ill from a chronic inflammation, aug- 
mented by the anxieties of a task beyond my strength 
and the absolute neglect of hygienic rules. The first 
half of the winter was exceedingly rainy, and I remem- 
ber that I would arrive at our little cook-shop in the 
Barrier Du Main with my shoes running water. 

Notwithstanding all this, I painted away desperately 
at my picture, now wildly hopeful of success, now utterly 

Completely exhausted, I was obliged at last to inter- 
rupt my work and go to Courrieres to recuperate. I 
came back a month before the time for sending my 
picture to the Salon, with somewhat restored health. I 
resumed my task with fresh ardor, succeeded by the same 
alternations of satisfaction and disgust. Artists know 
how enervating this is. 

The picture is finished. My comrades come to see it. 
Naturally, they think it superb. Tabar himself, the best 
artist among my friends, admires it warmly. " I see your 
picture already in a corner of the ' Salon of Honor.' " 
De Winne, who thought my picture a masterpiece, said to 
me : " At times its warm sunset lights seemed to me, 
too, real light. Courage ! Let us hope for a success." 

We hurry to the Salon. 

Yes, I may hope for a good place. And then, the 
excellent Merle, the director of the orchestra at the 
Opera Comique, a native of Ghent and a compatriot of 
De Winne, had brought one of the inspectors who had 
charge of the hanging to see my picture, and he had 
praised it highly. 


The exhibition was held in the Faubourg Poisson- 

We reach the hall. I look for my picture. Impossi- 
ble to find it. I find my inspector engaged in a violent 
dispute with Philippe Rousseau. This is not the time 
to choose to speak to him. 

Artists, anxious as myself, are running hither and 

Animated groups are gathered before " The Young 
Village Girls " and " The Bather *' of Courbet (" Look at 
the bather ! What a figure ! ") ; before Hamon's " My 
Lost Sister," "The Malaria" of Hebert, "The Skaters" 
of my friend Brion (" Bravo, Brion ! "), " The Peasants " 
of Millet ("Very peculiar, that Millet"). 

But where is my " Harvesters " ? De Winne has 
found his picture — " Ruth and Naomi " (" Not bad, a 
little pale"). 

Rousseau has released my inspector. I approach 
the latter. He is not in a good humor. 

" My faith," he says, " I have done all I could ; but 
you know there are so many proteges ! " 

And he points out to me my poor " Harvesters," 
hung under the ceiling. Impossible to recognize in this 
melancholy group, looking still more melancholy hang- 
ing up there, the gay peasants I had pictured to myself 
with that sunset flush that now seems to me a flush of 

I think I was scarcely more good-tempered than 
Philippe Rousseau, for my inspector gets rid of me in a 
sufficiently brutal fashion. 

* Very well ! " I say. " I know whom I shall appeal 

And I went to the Champs Elysees to the house of 
the Count de Morny, to whom our deputy had recom- 
mended me. 



" Can I see M. de Moray ? " I asked the concierge. 

" Have you a card of audience ? " 

" No." 

" Then, monsieur, the count will not receive you ! " 

I was liorribly disappointed. If any one had just 
then been able to prove to me that my picture was bad, 
I should have at once grown calm. But I had seen so 
many daubs paraded on the line ! Oh, what injustice ! 
Then base thoughts entered my mind. Returning home 
I stopped at the house of a man whom I occasionally 
met, but for whom I did not entertain any great sym- 
pathy. He was insincere. I recounted my discomfiture 
to him. 

li Ah, you do not know the Belgians," he said to me 
with a chuckle. " Merle* and De Winne have played you 
this trick, my dear fellow. I know them, these Bel- 
gians ! " 

And in his bad French — he was a Fleming — he 
added : 

" I can see peeping out of them the cloven foot ! " 

I ought at once to have given this odious person his 
answer. But no ! I had hell in my heart, and I began to 
suspect the good, the generous De Winne, whom, until 
then, I had regarded as a brother ! I had just reached 
home, my mind agitated by these vile suspicions, when 
this excellent friend came in. 

" What have you been doing with yourself since 
morning ? " he said to me. 

I did not answer. 

"Why, what is the matter with you," he said, with 
an anxious expression in his eyes. 

" Forgive me, Lievin ! " I cried, " I have done you an 
injustice ! " 

And I threw myself into his arms, and begged his 
pardon with tears in my eyes. 



In this Salon of 1853 there was an admirable picture 
of Daubigny, representing the margin of a cool, clear 

There was also a little landscape of Francais, full of 
poetic feeling — an Italian meadow with a straight ditch 
and a black cow beside it. I stood for a long time, 
plunged in a profound reverie, before this gem. The 
time of day was so well expressed in it that, as it was 
the hour at which I was accustomed to breakfast, I felt 
(and this is literally true) a sensation of hunger take 
possession of me, while I refreshed my eyes with the 
sight of this beautiful still water, lighted by the sun 
shining through the reeds. 

Millet made his appearance for the first, time with 
real peasants, painted from nature, and not from the 
imagination, like the too solemn " Sower." 

His picture represented a group of peasants in the 
field, whose dinner has just been brought to them. I 
have never again seen this picture, which was not in- 
cluded in the exhibition of the works of this painter. 

It was wonderful. It produced a singular impression 
upon me. 

This painting, baked in the sun, so to say, austere 
and earthy, expressed with marvelous effect the over- 
powering heat that burns the fields in the dog-days, a 
dull glow where breathe, stifle, and sweat horny-handed 
beings with knotty joints, thick lips, eyes vaguely defined 
in their sockets, outlines as simple as those of Egyptian 
art, and wearing clothes like sheaths, with baggy elbows 
and knees — beings of a stupid and savagely solemn 

His enemies saw in it the glorification of stupidity. 


It was indeed a singular picture, at first view. The gray 
tone of the wheat seemed to diffuse itself through the 
red atmosphere that, growing thicker in the distance, 
enveloped everything in its monochromatic waves, under 
the livid light of the leaden sky. 

Was it sublime, or was it horrible ? The public were 
startled by it, and waited, as usual, for the recognized 
critics to give the watchword. It was true they were 
not charmed by the picture, but they did not give way 
to the hilarity they had not hesitated to express before 
some recent disgraceful specimens of art. They felt 
the influence of a power, they felt themselves in the 
presence of a great creation, of a strange vision of an 
almost prehistoric character. 

This feeling of absolute oneness with the soil is not 
at all that of our peasants of the north, but it is occa- 
sionally to be met with among those of La Beauce. 

Millet has since given us many works of a higher 
style of art, in which he attains character and sentiment 
even with ugliness. Every one knows them. He has 
gradually added to his pictures an element wanting in 
them in the beginning — depth of atmosphere. 

With a plow standing in a rugged field where a few 
slender thistles are growing, two or three tones and an 
execution awkward and woolly, he can stir the depths 
of the soul and interpret the infinite. 

A solitary, at times a sublime genius, he has made of 
a sheepfold lighted by the rays of the rising Moon, mys- 
terious as the eternal problem she presents, a little pict- 
ure life-like and pure as a work of Phidias, unfathom- 
able as a Rembrandt, but let others beware how they 
imitate it ! 

Because Millet has created masterpieces, depicting 
man degraded by poverty even to the erTacement of 
his individuality, we have not therefore the right to 


deny the exalted, the divine beauty of these master- 

The wretched beings depicted by Millet touch us 
profoundly because he loved them profoundly, and be- 
cause he has raised them to the higher regions inhabited 
by his genius, which has invested them with its own 

But they have nothing in common with vulgar ugli- 
ness. Beauty will always remain the highest aim of art. 

Admiration should not degenerate into fetichism, and 
those who best comprehend the genius of Millet, will 
take good care how they counsel others to imitate him. 

In the first place, is it in truth ugliness that Millet 
has depicted ? Is even that " Man with the Hoe " so 
ugly, who awakens our sympathy by something inex- 
pressibly mysterious and venerable ? 

Many of his works prove that his harsh and austere 
ideal did not disdain the softened expression of a more 
serene art. 

I had occasion to discuss this question with an artist 
with whom chance brought me into contact at the grand 
distribution of prizes of the International Exposition of 

We spoke of the intolerance of certain short-sighted 
art critics who refuse the artist the right to give himself 
up to the inspirations of his originality, or who, judging 
every work of art by one common standard, would like 
to make them all conform to their favorite type, as if the 
types of nature were not as diversified as the forms of 
its interpreter, art. u Why should not painters have the 
right to choose," said this artist, " one, the rough potato, 
the other, the morning-glory that twines itself among the 
corn?" He went on to develop this doctrine in a clear- 
er and more forcible manner than I can do justice to. 

This artist was Francois Millet. 



I quitted Paris in a state of extreme depression 
caused by my anxiety regarding my picture and by the 
state of my health, which still continued bad. 

I had a longing for rest and retirement. 

My excellent uncle who, with Louis's help, provided 
for the wants of the family, had built a little studio for 
me, at my desire, in the garden of the brewery. 

I returned to Courrieres, then, with the intention of 
working there. 

I began a picture. 

A study made at Ghent of the ruins of the Abbey of 
St. Bavon served as a motive for a " Gypsy Camp " that 
I composed. A remnant of romanticism still remained 
with me. 

I worked at this picture in a somewhat desultory 
manner, my attention distracted by my surroundings, by 
the beauty of rustic nature, that began to awaken in my 
heart a thousand recollections of my childhood. 

All the earliest sensations of this dawn of existence 
were renewed in me, producing a delicious intoxication 
of the senses refreshed by the free pure air. 

I lived again in memory those days when I was 
awakened by the song of the birds in the morning when 
the sunrise lighted up the room with a rosy flame that 
grew paler and paler in the light of an opal sky, while 
the lowing of the cows, the grating of the barn doors on 
their hinges, and the crowing of the cocks, coming soft- 
ened through the morning mist, announced that rural 
life had recommenced. 

Again I stretched myself, overpowered by a sweet 
languor, on the grass in the cool shade where the very 
air was luminous, where the profound silence of noon 


seemed deeper from the buzzing of the insects that flew 
swiftly past unseen in the midday glare. 

Intoxicated by the perfumes and the harmonies of 
nature, I gave myself up to reverie, spending all my time 
in aimless sauntering. 

Away with the studio with its livid stream of light 
falling from overhead, dull and leaden, through the daz- 
zling glass of the skylight, on those poor pallid gypsies 
grouped in their dark ruin around the witch stirring 
their broth over the fire, to the sound of her muttered 
incantations. I have not the courage even to look at 
them again. 

I had sketched them, however, with some spirit, from 
little clay manikins that I had draped in secret, show- 
ing them to no one, not even to my brothers, who had 
come occasionally to look through the keyhole to get a 
glimpse of them. The day on which I had opened 
the studio door to my brothers, however, judging the 
picture sufficiently far advanced to show to them, I 
was disappointed to see how slight an impression it 

After that the poor gypsies had languished on the 
neglected easel. 

But the most delightful moment of the day was when 
in the evening, after supper, we smoked our pipes, sit- 
ting in our chairs tipped back against the wall, and let 
our gaze wander out into the road, where the evening 
mists were rising, wavering in the still heated air. 

Everything floated in a white transparent mist, out 
of which rose, one by one, the sunburned faces of the 
peasants returning slowly from the fields, walking with 
heavy step, or mounted on top of the heaps of wheat or 
the bundles of grass in their spring-carts. 

The somber landscape, where a few rays of light still 
lingered, stood out with wonderful effect against the 


saffron sky irradiated by the crimson flames fading into 
darkness behind the thatched roofs of the cottages. 

Tall dark peasant girls passed by, upon whose tan- 
gled locks the last sunset rays lingered like an aure- 
ole, their shadowy figures outlined in light. In the 
somber and mysterious gloom of twilight, they seemed 
more beautiful and more dignified, carrying their sickles, 
on which the cold light of the upper sky gleamed like 

A gentle breeze at times set their well-worn garments 
in motion. 

And I felt my heart melt within me in delightful 
transports of tender emotion. 

Oh, joy ! Joy of the eyes, joy of the soul ! Recon- 
ciliation of the individual with himself in the out-pour- 
ing of universal love ! I luxuriated in all the effluence 
of life — of nature — the effervescent life of plants wet 
with the morning dew, the waving of the grain in the 
morning breeze, the rapturous song of the larks herald- 
ing the dawn ; flaming poppies, modest corn-flowers, 
mysterious distances fading into the peaceful sky, odors 
that waken ecstatic thrills, intoxicating emanations, ra- 
diance of the free pure light, splendor of rays filtering 
through the trees and shooting with gold the gray trans- 
parence of the sleeping waters ! And the intensity of 
the silence, through which burst from time to time sono- 
rous voices, through which thrilled rustling murmurs. 
Oh> j°y • J°y of nature ! joy of existence ! Oh, divine 
charm ! Oh, all-bountiful God, revealing thyself to the 
heart through so many ineffable blessings ! 

Often I would rise before the first rays of dawn had 
wakened the dark and sleeping fields. 

The streets were silent. Here and there, however, 
some house would show signs of life ; a young woman 
would open the window, her eyes heavy with sleep, her 



hair in disorder, half-dressed — delightful glimpses into 
other lives. Further on was a child crying, or an old 
woman scolding. 

And I would walk far into the fields, where the ma- 
nure-heaps smoked beside the herbage wet with dew. 
The bending wheat sprinkled me with dew as I walked 
along the narrow foot-path. Among the mists the wil- 
lows dropped their tears, while their gray tops caught 
the light overhead. Then I re-entered the village, now 
all bright and awake, where rose, at times, with the blue 
wreaths of smoke from the chimneys, the sweet, monot- 
onous songs of the young embroiderers. 

I returned to the fields to look at the gleaners. 
There yonder, defined against the sky, was the busy 
flock, overtopped by the guard. 

I watched them as they worked, now running in 
joyous bands carrying sheaves of golden grain ; now 
bending over the stubble, closely crowded together. 

When I went among them they stopped their work to 
look at me, smiling and confused, in the graceful free- 
dom of their scanty and ill-assorted garments. 

Ah ! I no longer regretted either Clamart or Meudon, 
and I loved the simple beauty of my native place, that 
offered itself to me, as Ruth offered herself to Boaz. 
Yes, I became one with you, O land where my first 
joys were felt, and thou didst infuse into my soul the 
tender beauty of thy carnations, the majesty of thy 
wheat fields, and the mystery of thy marsh, with its mo- 
tionless waters shaded by ashes swarming with can- 
tharides. O land of my childhood, to thee have I given 
my heart, to thee have I dedicated my life ! 



One day I made a little gleaner pose for me, standing 
on a flowery bank beside a field of wheat. Her bent 
face was in shadow, while the sunlight fell on her cap 
and her shoulders. As I painted her I felt a secret joy. 

I can not express the feeling of rapture caused me 
by the harmony of this dark face, strongly defined 
against the golden grain among which ran lilac morn- 
ing-glories, by the warm glow of the earth, the violet re- 
flections of the blue sky, the flowers and the shrubs. 
All this enchanted me. 

I had already sent my " Gypsies " to the Exhibition 
at Brussels, when one day my brother Louis, coming 
across this little " Gleaner " in the corner where it had 
lain forgotten said to me, " Why do you not send this 
too to the Exhibition ? " " That ? " I replied, " It is 
not worth while." And then I had no frame. 

My brother persisted, and in the end discovered in 
the barn an old, tarnished frame that had once inclosed 
a poor portrait. It was near the expiration of the time 
of grace allowed in sending pictures. I sent it off at 

What was my astonishment when, a few days after- 
ward, arriving in Brussels, I found my " Gypsies " badly 
hung and my " Little Gleaner " on the line in the center 
of a panel, where it attracted general attention. 


I was not completely happy, however ; I suffered in 
secret. A hidden sentiment often carried me in thought 
to Ghent, where unconfessed torments held me bound. 



I had resolved not to look again at the counter- 
drawing of the delicate face, and yet how many times 
did I take it with a trembling hand from the bottom of 
my drawer ! 

When, on the 2 2d of August, 1853, she came to Cour- 
rieres with her father. 

She was now a young lady. I was surprised at the 
change that had taken place in her countenance. It 
no longer wore a severe expression. She was so happy 
to see us ! 

She expressed herself naively. u The nearer we ap- 
proached," she said, " the more violently did my heart 

What tenderness did her ingenuous glance reveal ! 

Next day she came to me as I was sitting alone, and 
said these simple words : " I must have often caused 
you pain ; I am very sorry for it. Will you forgive me ? " 
I kissed her. 

Two days afterward we were engaged. 

It had come about very simply. I was painting her 
portrait in the little studio, and when I came to the 
eyes I stopped, overcome by my emotion, and said to 
her : " Have you understood me ? " She nodded affirm- 
atively. " Will you be my wife ? " She made the same 
affirmative sign. 


The success of my " Little Gleaner " had put me in 
the humor for work. I thought of a composition which 
should contain a number of these poor women and lit- 
tle girls and boys who look like flocks of sparrows as 
they bend over the stubble. 

These moving groups that dotted the sun-burned 



plain, defined in dark shadow against the sky as they 
bent in varied attitudes over the earth gathering the 
ears of grain, filled me with admiration. Nothing could 
be more Biblical than this human flock — the sunlight 
clinging to their floating rags, burning their necks, light- 
ing up the ears of wheat, luminously outlining dark pro- 
files, tracing on the tawny gold of the earth flickering 
shadows shot with blue reflections from the zenith. 

As I looked at this scene full of simple grandeur I 
thought myself transported to the times of the patri- 
archs. And, indeed, is not a scene like this always 
grand, always beautiful ! 

I came away feeling as if I had emerged from a 
bath of light, of which the splendors still pursued me 
during the night in dazzling visions. 

But the more sublime I felt this scene to be the 
more strongly did I feel my own weakness and my in- 
ability to do justice to it. 

Was I not like those foolish grasshoppers, also drunk 
with light, and whose frantic exertions are only the 
heroism of weakness ! Poor brains, through which, too, 
flash at night luminous visions. 

I began, then, full of ardor, but also without illusion, 
my first picture of " The Gleaners." 

Did I think I was attempting a new thing ? Not at 
all. I even thought that this subject, as old as the poem 
of Ruth, must have already been handled by many artists. 

I was greatly astonished, therefore, when I was after- 
ward told that I had been the first to treat it. My first 
picture of u The Gleaners " was painted in 1854; the 
44 Gleaners" of Millet was painted in 1857. 

I also painted at this time a group of three young 
girls, and a scene representing men drinking (" The Day 
after St. Sebastian "), suggested by the customs of the 



I took these three pictures to Paris, and sent them 
to the building in the Avenue Montagne, where the In- 
ternational Exhibition of 1855 took place. 

I confess that I trembled at the thought of this am- 
bitious attempt. 

I can see myself standing now, nervous and restless, 
in the vestibule where the names of the pictures were 

I waited for my turn, looking furtively at my poor 
pictures hanging against the wall in a frightful light, and 
before which such resplendent pictures were being car- 
ried past by porters. 

How insignificant they appeared to me, this flock of 
girls, of whom the guard smoking his pipe seemed to be 
the melancholy shepherd ! 

A gentleman draws near, however ; a gentleman 
wearing the ribbon of the Legion of Honor. He leans 
toward them, he draws back, he approaches them again. 
Is he interested in them, then ? 

He sees by my confused air that I must be the 
painter of the picture, comes to me and says, " Is that 
yours, young man ? " I make an affirmative gesture. 

He stretches out his hand to me and says, " It is 
very good." 

And I look gratefully at this stranger whose frank 
expression makes my heart warm to him. 

" And you think, monsieur, that — that my picture 
will be received ? " 

" Received ! Why, it will have a success, a great 
success ! " 

Then somewhat reassured I added, " May I know, 
monsieur, to whom I have the honor — " 

" My name is Alfred Arago." 

He was the son of the great Arago ! When we 
parted he already called me "my friend," and six 



months later we were to say thee and thou to each 

My uncle was exceedingly proud and delighted when, 
on my return to Courrieres, I related this interview to 
him. for he cherished a warm admiration for the name 
rendered illustrious by the brothers Arago in literature 
and science as well as in the annals of patriotism. 

But at the end of a few days, having heard nothing 
further of my picture, my apprehensions returned, so im- 
possible did it seem to me that I should succeed in ob- 
taining a place in that great exhibition. 

At last I received a letter from the worthy door- 
keeper of the Louvre, whom you know, and who was 
again attached to the Exhibition. 

It contained these simple words (oh, the power of a 
few words !) that delighted my eyes more than a Parnas- 
sian strophe would have done : " Your pictures have 
been received, and have been greatly admired. The 
picture of ' The Gleaners ' especially has dazzled the jury " 


I obtained the predicted success at the Interna- 
tional Exposition ; my pictures were awarded medals 
and were sold. 

My little studio at the brewery had been only pro- 
visional. My uncle had it pulled down, and caused 
another, of large proportions, to be built for me, for, full 
of confidence, I had conceived a more important com- 
position than "The Gleaners," "The Blessing of the 

At the same time that I painted this picture I paint- 
ed another also, called " Setting out for the Fields." 


At this epoch exhibitions took place every two 

While these pictures were at the studio in the Boule- 
vard Montparnasse, where Gluck still worked, many per- 
sons had come to see them. 

Among these were some celebrated artists — Gerome, 
Corot, Belly, and others. One morning a man of tall 
stature, with a somewhat rustic air, knocked at the door 
of the studio. " I am Troyon," he said. " I have heard 
about your picture and I would like to see it." 

It may be imagined with what haste I drew forward 
a chair and asked him to be seated. 

He looked for a long, long time at the canvas with- 
out uttering a word. This silence disquieted me and I 
ventured to ask his opinion. He rose abruptly, grasped 
my hand, and expressed his satisfaction to me warmly. 

And when I urged him to point out the faults of the 
picture for my future guidance, he answered: "Yes, it 
has faults, but they are faults that you will correct your- 
self of soon enough, and perhaps it would be all the bet- 
ter if you did not." 

I awaited, then, with confidence, the opening of the 

But when the day arrived, my friends had to look 
for the picture which they had thought was to occupy 
so prominent a place. 

I had myself some trouble in discovering it, hung as 
it was, ten or twelve feet from the ground, above a 
rather large picture of Belly. A few dark silhouettes 
indicated the figures, and an indistinct patch of yellow 
the background. I was dismayed. 

This was the great success that my fellow-artists had 

In a state of nervousness that overcame all timidity, 
I hurried to Count Nieuwerkerke, whose tall figure I 



caught sight of towering above the crowd. " Count," 
I cried, " they have hung my picture shamefully ! " 

He answered me very gently : " I can do nothing in 
the matter; I have had no part in the hanging. I am 
sorry for this, for your sake, but you know how it is — 
every one can not be on the line." 

He turned away, then paused a moment as if in 
thought, and returning said, " Where is your picture ? " 

I conducted the handsome and amiable superintend- 
ent to the place where my picture hung. 

" Ah, it is that procession," he said, giving me his 
hand. " I know it, I know it." And calling the chief 
of the wardens, he said to him : " How is it that this 
picture is hung so high, when it was on the line yester- 
day ? " " It is because Prince Napoleon wanted that 
place for a protegi." " Well, let it be taken down the 
next time there is a change made in the hanging." 

Then he addressed me again in these terms : " Will 
you sell me your procession ? I will give you five thou- 
sand francs for it ; it is not much, but it is for the Lux- 

What happiness ! 

I thanked the superintendent warmly, and, descend- 
ing the grand staircase four steps at a time, ran to the 
Cafe Durand (which has since witnessed the transports 
of many another conqueror) to write this amazing news 
to my good uncle. 

I have never been either at the Tuileries or at Com- 
piegne, nor have I ever been intimate with M. de Nieu- 
werkerke, but I must here say that he was a true gen- 
tleman. He knew, too, how to rid himself of the crowd, 
eager for notoriety, who too often obstruct the paths of 
official life. 

I had another proof of his goodness after the distri- 
bution of prizes in 1867, when I expressed my surprise 


to him at my promotion to the grade of officer, which 
had been unsolicited — which I myself had never thought 
of asking for, and of which he had not even spoken to 
me at the beginning of the session 

All he said was : " But you are pleased, are you 

At the general rehanging my " Blessing of the Wheat " 
was lowered, and the later visitors at the Salon saw it in 
a good light ; but the newspapers had, for the most 
part, finished their notices, and I was not really con- 
scious of the success of my picture until the next Salon, 
in 1859, when the press accorded unanimous praise to 
my paintings there exhibited. 


While my " Blessing of the Wheat " was waiting to 
be done justice to at the next rehanging, Paul Baudry 
triumphed over all the line with five or six pictures of 
greater or less importance — " Fortune and the Child," 
" The Punishment of a Vestal," " Primavera," " Leda," 
and some portraits. 

His success was brilliant. 

Edmond About, also at that time in the dawn of his 
fame, dedicated to him the volume which he published 
on the Salon of 1857. They had contracted a friend- 
ship at Rome close as that between two brothers, con- 
fiding to each other their youthful enthusiasm and their 
dreams of glory. At the first page of this extended re- 
view, About affectionately addresses the painter thus : 
" Pauliccio mio ! " 

But, however merited his success, Baudry disap- 
pointed somewhat those of us who were his old fellow- 



students at the Studio Drolling. Our dear Baudry had 

He was no longer the little Vendean, rude as the 
wild trees of his native forests, who, without grace, but 
with a singular robustness and a virile simplicity of tone, 
painted faces and figures, boldly and firmly designed, at 
a heat ; whom we had seen when he lived on the sixth 
story of the isolated house of the Place St.-Germ^in- 
des-Pres, drawing on the cloth with which he had hung 
the walls of his apartment barbarously savage Chouan 
scenes ; whom we had seen execute, also at the competi- 
tion of the school — a daring attempt — the " Vitellius " 
so true to life, in which he had dramatically depicted 
the stupid terror of that master of the world as he rolls 
from the throne which had become a sink of corruption, 
the victim of the ungovernable fury of the populace. 

Was he indeed the same Baudry? 

True, we still thought him a delightful painter. 

His M Primavera " especially seemed to me an exquis- 
ite inspiration in which elegant figures are grouped with 
enchanting art, like the clear soft harmonies of a delight- 
ful melody. 

But we had counted on a powerful innovator of the 
true French school, and he comes back to us Italianized 
and with a leaning to the tender in painting. 

He had rounded his angles and softened his expres- 
sion by contact with the suave Coreggio, he had bor- 
rowed the glowing colors of Titian. And the little Leda, 
lovely in her sacred grove, thrilled with pleasure at the 
gentle caresses of the divine swan, still more tender 
under the caressing touch of the brush, and " Fortune " 
betrayed the inspiration of Titian while attempting to 
smile a la Leonardo. 

Yes, frankly, we expected, if not something better, 
at least something different from this savage son of a 


Vendean shoemaker, from this young man on the way to 
become a great painter, who, in his humble cradle, had 
imbibed the primitive sap which makes leaders of 

We found again the trace of these early impressions 
in his painting M The Punishment of a Vestal/' with its 
faces tangled together like briars, its rugose frames with 
knotty muscles, where a vein runs here and there like a 
bramble, side by side with blooming young girls and 
children with the grace and freshness of the wild rose. 

One feels that there are here reminiscences of hours 
when, escaping from the paternal dwelling, he would 
plunge into the woods, inhaling the aroma of the 
pines and oaks and following with inquisitive gaze the 
fantastic forms and twisted arabesques of the roots and 
branches of the trees, and at the same time, with a feel- 
ing for the beautiful, silently contemplating a flower, 
then break through the clearings, tearing his clothes 
among the brambles, to chase a butterfly whose colors 
already awaken his curiosity. 

In 1857 Baudry came back from Rome; I met him 
at the Salon, and we embraced each other like old 
friends. I went to his studio, situated at that time in 
the Rue des Beaux-Arts. 

We v/ere delighted to meet each other again and in- 
terchange our experiences during the years we had spent 
so far apart and in so different a manner. 

I found him more correct as to his attire, but other- 
wise little changed. 

He was still the same dark young man with aquiline 
profile whose pale-olive complexion harmonized so well 
with the intense black of his hair and of his eyes that 
had not lost their fascinating expression. His lip was 
shaded by a light mustache, which in moments of ab- 
sent-mindedness he twisted with a gesture that was habit- 


ual to him. There was a tinge of melancholy in his ex- 
pression, and he enjoyed silently and apparently un- 
moved his success, at which, with becoming modesty, he 
confessed himself a little surprised. He recognized that 
he had allowed himself to fall too much under Italian 
influence, and he made an effort to recover his original- 
ity. But he vacillated, and, in my opinion, again went 
astray in the " Toilet of Venus," which he then had on 
his easel, and whose affectedness savors a little of the 
Pompadour school. 

He finished also the " Madeleine," fine in tone, and 
fall of tender feeling, although the figure, with its weak 
and awkward joints, is wanting in equilibrium. 

These pictures made their appearance at the Salon 
of 1859 at the same time with my " Planting of the Cal- 
vary," my " Gleaners of the Luxembourg," and my 
i: Monday " (a drinking scene). 

The Salon of 1861 treated both of us well. Baudry 
exhibited " The Little St. John the Baptist," standing, 
bright and modern looking, his very remarkable portrait 
of Guizot, and his " Charlotte Corday." 

I had in the Exhibition " The Weeders," " The Fire," 
u Evening," and " The Colza." 

We both received the cross of the Legion of Honor. 

I think I can now see Baudry descending the steps 
of the platform where he had just received the cross in 
the midst of a salvo of bravos, pale and trembling with 
emotion, his brow lighted by some mysterious aureole, 
the cynosure of our admiring eyes. 

And as he passed behind me to regain his place 
which was near mine, he put his hand, trembling with 
happiness, on my shoulder, and whispered in my ear : 
" All the same, standing there so long is enough to break 
one's legs." 

But Baudry's greatest success was " The Pearl and 


the Wave." What a delightful personification of the sea, 
pure and blue, and fringed with foam ! How marvelous 
that warm and pearly figure, that ravishing head thrown 
back in ecstasy, absorbed in its vision of light ! What 
a voluptuous, yet chaste charm it breathes ! And how 
original the style, though different, indeed, from that of 
which the artist gave promise in his earlier paintings. 

Why, after painting this picture, did he return to the 
Italian Renaissance in his " Diana chasing Love," a pict- 
ure he recommenced three or four times before he could 
succeed in satisfying himself? Because he went to 
Rome to prepare for his great work on the Opera 

I think he would have done better if he had com- 
posed and executed in Paris his great decorative paint- 
ings for this theatre. It was a fine opportunity to regain 
entire freedom. 

He is haunted by dreams of supreme grandeur of 
vast epic compositions ; and, instead of giving himself up 
freely to his inspiration, he turns his eyes again toward 

He goes to bow down humbly before the awful god 
of the Sistine Chapel. 

He there erects a scaffolding from which he will not 
descend until he shall have imitated the grandeur of ex- 
ecution of Michael Angelo, a heroic and fruitless labor 
in which he will exhaust his health. 

Far be it from me to deny the tremendous amount 
of talent expended by Baudry on the foyer of the Opera 
House, but when I think of all the ravishing creations 
of which this overwhelming labor has deprived us, when 
I think of the healthful joy which the artist would have 
had in painting them, when I look again at " The Pearl 
and the Wave," I can not help deploring the fact that 
he should have exhausted his physical strength and his 



genius in this undertaking, how heroic soever it may 
have been. 

I deplore this fact all the more because this work is 
at so great a height that it is almost lost to view. 

Ah, he has paid dearly for a fame which he would 
have attained more naturally by following the path sowed 
with recollections of his childhood passed at La Roche- 
sur-Yon, where Fortune came one day to find the little 
Paul, not on the brink of a well, but on the ill-joined 
planks of a rustic platform, playing on the violin for the 
peasants to dance. 

Happily there are to be found traces of his original 
manner in many of his paintings, notably in his portraits. 
For his excessive elegance was of no avail ; in his paint- 
ing, as in his person, there is something of the rudeness 
of the people, the harshness of his first impression ; in 
his Vendean sabots he still keeps a little hay. 

His " Glorification of the Law " was the occasion of 
an indisputable triumph. 

Baudry died at the height of his fame, and yet he 
died a saddened man. Even before his illness he was 
dejected. Was this because he felt within him some- 
thing sublime to which he had not been able to give 
complete expression, always diverted from the task by 
the admiration of others. 

Ah, why was he not permitted to live a few years 
longer? Why was he not permitted to execute the 
" Jeanne d'Arc " of which he had so long dreamed, and 
which, by the power of love, would have reconquered 
for him his true country, France ? 

He leaves behind him one of the greatest names of 
our school — a name, however, which, in my opinion, 
would have been still greater if he had never left 

I have insisted strongly on this point. 



By the preceding pages it may be seen how great is my 
veneration for the old masters. I have counseled young 
artists not to throw themselves into the unknown with- 
out leaning upon them in the beginning and returning 
frequently to consult them, but this is on condition that 
they shall retain their own individuality. 

In fact, the greatest of the historical painters of our 
French school seems to have been laboring to prove that 
those who preach the doctrine of absolute independence 
are in the right. 

We have seen David renounce his powerful and brill- 
iant original qualities in order to imitate feebly the 
Greeks of the Decadence ; we have seen Ingres striving 
desperately to keep up with Raphael, letting drop his 
own most precious gifts by the way; we have seen Dela- 
croix entangle his powerful and sublime dramatic senti- 
ment in the magnificent harmonies of Rubens and the 
inflations of Tintoretto ; and now Baudry also seems too 
often to disdain his own strong qualities derived from 
the natal soil in order to seek inspiration at foreign 


At this period I occasionally went to visit Baudry. 
Sometimes we breakfasted together, and I had an oppor- 
tunity to appreciate all the tenderness of his heart and 
the fineness of his wit. He adored his brother Ambrose, 
and was devoted to his parents. 

At first glance, he seemed extremely reserved, and 
even a little disdainful, but he had a strong affection for 
his friends, which he manifested to them in a thousand 


I have tried to describe the man and the artist ; the 
friend was in no way their inferior. 

He was ambitious, like all artists, but not at all vain ; 
it might be said of him that he was modestly proud, but 
nothing can better describe him than the charming let- 
ters which he wrote to his friends, and which have been 
given to the public. 

He hesitated long before exhibiting his pictures ; he 
feared criticism. He said, speaking of certain malevo- 
lent critics of the Salon : " Am I not the first to suffer 
for my faults, and do I not strive to correct them? 
Why, then, do they take a malignant pleasure in castigat- 
ing me in public? " And he would add : " Bah ! I will 
exhibit no more pictures ; there is nothing but hard 
knocks to be got by it." 

He carried his passion for his art to rapture, but it 
caused him keen suffering also. I think the struggle 
killed him before his time. 

When he had finished his grand decorative paint- 
ings, and wished to return to his easel, he perceived that 
he had lost his former admirable power of execution. 

The fine, even coloring of his earlier pictures had 
crumbled into sharp, dry hatchings. His imagination 
had never been fresher or more brilliant, but a sort of 
weakness of touch prevented him from defining with 
precision the images he saw. The charm endured, for 
it was derived from deeper, more mysterious sources, 
but his painting, properly speaking, was on the decline. 

I compared him, at the time, to Michael Angelo, who 
by dint of contemplating the vaulted dome of the Sis- 
tine Chapel, where the heaven of his sublime visions un- 
rolled itself before him, was no longer able, when he 
descended from his scaffolding, to bend his head to 
contemplate the earth. 

Poor Baudry felt that he was ill, and struggled 


against his malady — so successfully, that he produced 
several other exquisite works, among them " The Rape 
of Psyche," his swan's song. 


I spent a part of the summer of 1857 at Marlotte, 
on the borders of the Forest of Fontainebleau. 

I lodged at Father Antony's. 

At this inn, of more than doubtful cleanliness, there 
were at this time Desjobert, Appian, Daubigny, some 
other artists, and Theodore de Banville, who had just 
published his u Odes Funambulesques." 

I worked at first with a good deal of ardor in the 
forest, whose austere grandeur impressed me. But soon, 
as was the case when I was a child at Labroye, I felt 
myself seized with a sort of spleen, a gloom blacker than 
the blackest haunts of vipers. 

The first impression I had received was one of keen 
delight, but this soon changed to a poignant melan- 

So that, returning to the inn, on emerging from the 
wood, I welcomed with a sense of deliverance the sight 
of the little paths running along the wheat fields bor- 
dered with willows with drooping foliage. 

I then studied the rustic side of the country, wilder 
than Courrieres, and more in Millet's style. 

I cherish a pleasing recollection of the hours of hard 
work spent among those clever artists. 

Daubigny, like his style of art, was delightfully frank 
and simple. 

Our favorite haunt was Montigny, situated on the 
banks of the Loing, where grew thick-leaved plants and 



flowering reeds. What a charming study he made there 
one day of a simple belfry and a few little houses with 
terraced gardens reflecting their images in the water ! 

And in the evening we would return to the inn, fam- 
ished with hunger, and seated in Father Antony's arbor, 
with what keen relish would we devour the sauted rab- 
bits, or the carps dressed with wine, washed down with 
the thin wine of the country ! 

Our studies were taken from the packing-cases and 
hung up on the walls of the inn. And every morning 
we set out to make the conquest of some new motive, and 
our umbrellas were to be seen like a crop of gigantic 
mushrooms, dotting the field in the sunshine. 

There is nothing more delightful than the sense of 
physical well-being and mental exhilaration which the 
artist feels in outdoor study ; he enjoys at the same 
time the pleasures of art and of nature ; he breathes the 
perfumes of the wood and of the new-mown hay ; he 
forgets the anxieties of daily life ; he has the delighted 
satisfaction of seeing the image of what he admires take 
shape and perfect itself under his pencil. How many 
exquisite pleasures does he experience at once ! 

What rapture to penetrate little by little into the 
secrets of effect, to discover its infallible laws ! 

Is not each page of nature a visible symphony whose 
wonderful harmonies reveal themselves to the charmed 
eye that can perceive them ? 

And this symphony he sees gradually emerge on a 
simple canvas from the chaos of the first touches ; 
formless and discordant at first, little by little it grows 
clear and harmonious, and the artist feels his soul exalted 
in a sort of delightful intoxication, and his hand works 
swiftly and at the same time unerringly, guided by the 
impulse of his clear and rapid perception. 

And like flights of magical birds in the midst of this 


work which might be thought so absorbing a thousand 
delightful souvenirs cross the mind, reminiscences awak- 
ened by a tone or a harmony, that gleam with a thousand 
colors as they fly past, like the soap-bubbles which chil- 
dren send into the air. 

When several painters are working together, this state 
of happy excitement provokes a thousand exclamations 
of wild gayety and sparkling sallies of wit. 

How quickly would we hurry to our room, on our 
return, to judge the effect of the study, for the light out 
of doors is even more unfavorable to painting than was 
the blue-flowered paper of the inn. 


I returned to Courrieres, taking with me vivid im- 
pressions from my sojourn at Marlotte. 

I immediately set to work at "Calling the Gleaners" 
and the " Planting of Calvary." 

I had witnessed this ceremony long before in a vil- 
lage near Courrieres, a spectacle which had awakened in 
my mind the remembrance of that first planting of a 
Calvary which I have mentioned in narrating the events 
of my childhood. 

Felix de Vigne came to spend his vacation at Cour- 
rieres, accompanied by my young fiancee. 

He profited by the presence of my models to make 
some studies which astonished us by the remarkable 
progress they denoted in this artist who was now in his 
fiftieth year. It was as if a second youth had renewed 
his powers. His color grew clearer, his touch more flexi- 
ble. It was indeed light that sprung from the touch of his 
pencil. Adieu to the influence of his master Paclinck ! 



My young fiancee posed for me for the Calvary as 
one of the three young girls in white bearing the sym- 
bols of the passion, the girl who carries the crown of 

It was a happy time, happy as it was possible for it 
to be although our affairs were still embarrassed, finan- 
cially speaking, and consequently we were not in the 
enjoyment of complete independence, but, thanks to the 
good management and the unselfish devotion of my 
uncle and the consideration which he enjoyed, our 
pecuniary position improved every day, and allowed us 
to catch a glimpse of this independence in the distance. 

We all remained at the brewery, now enlarged and 
brightened by the presence of a young woman, my sister- 
in-law, Constance Charlon, whom Louis had married, 
and who was in complete harmony with us. 

She was the sympathetic confidante of the secrets of 
my heart during the long period which, owing to our 
pecuniary embarrassments, of necessity elapsed before 
my marriage, so ardently desired, took place. 

The house was enlivened also by the sports and the 
prattle of their first two children whom we adored, and 
whose death later on caused us such bitter grief. 

fimile, who had returned from his regiment, after 
having tried several business enterprises in every way 
uncongenial to him, began to be discontented at not 
being able to employ his energies in a way suited to his 
natural aptitudes. 

As he used to do in Paris, he would occasionally 
take my palette and begin painting imaginary landscapes 
(he who had never made even the simplest study), which 
astonished us by their spirit and truth to nature. 

Where had he learned to see and interpret nature 

But he attached no importance to these attempts. 



Could he be a painter ? This was in his eyes a dream 
impossible of realization. Besides, our uncle would 
never lend a favorable ear to such a project. 

As for me, I did not dare to advise him. 

It was De Winne who, astonished at my brother's at- 
tempts, decided us to put him in the path where he was 
soon to make such rapid progress. 

My uncle had a studio fitted up for him, and he set 
himself assiduously to work. 

Louis, who managed the brewery, painted also at 
times in his leisure moments. He even once exhibited 
one of his studies under the pseudonym of Noterb. He 
also had a natural aptitude for poetry, and amused him- 
self in making verses that were incorrect, indeed, but 
not without grace. 

Mayor and councilor of the district, my uncle was 
as much of an enthusiast as ever, although he was ap- 
proaching his sixtieth year. He continued his solitary 
walks through the fields, always turning over in his mind 
some new improvement for the place — a town hall, an 
asylum, schools for girls and for boys, a bridge across 
the Deule, the restoration of the church — works which 
were all afterward carried to a successful termination 
with the aid of the Government. He was always engaged 
in some new plan, always in correspondence with the 
prefect, the sub-prefect, the engineer, the architect, the 
road surveyor, inviting them to dine with us whenever 
their business chanced to bring them to our place. 

In no case, on the arrival of the mail, did he open 
his private letters before having first opened those which 
concerned public business. 

Shall I speak of the domestic or conjugal dissensions 
in which he was called to play the part of peace-maker? 

Or could he neglect to relieve worthy cases of dis- 
tress, he who was still embarrassed in his own affairs ? 


He began, it is true, by scolding the petitioners, who 
quietly let the storm pass by, knowing very well that 
this manifestation of ill-humor was already a proof of 

I remember one day when annoyed at being dis- 
turbed during dinner, he said impatiently to his trouble- 
some visitor : " Do you not dine, then ? " " Thanks, 
Monsieur le Maire," replied the other, " I dined before 

I married Elodie de Vigne on the 29th of April, 
1858. On the 26th of July, 1859, was born our daugh- 
ter Virginie, who was to be the source of so much hap- 
piness to us. 

Emile also had married. The phalanstery of the 
brewery became too small. Each family had to have its 
own home. 

We took up our abode in a house built for a vicarage 
by my father in his prosperous days. 

It was in this dwelling, with its little front yard con- 
cealed from view by a wall, and its peaceful and modest 
garden, that we passed our existence. Here it was that 
Virginie grew up. Here it was when three years old, 
as soon as she was able to hold a pencil in her hand, 
that she began to make scrawls of peasants, in which we 
could soon begin to see some meaning. When about 
seven years old she made compositions, representing, 
for the most part, children at play, remarkable for their 
action and their foreshortening. 

But, if I shall still speak of my impressions as an 
artist, and of our trips to Brittany and the South, hence- 
forth, like our modest house, I must place a wall between 
the public and my life. I should have to depict emo- 
tions of too private and personal a nature. 

I shall speak henceforth only of art and of nature^ 
and will only permit myself some necrological details 


regarding persons mentioned in these recollections and 
in whom the reader may have become interested. 

For, alas ! the hour of mourning will soon strike 
again ! 


But, however profitable my sojourn at Courrieres 
might be, it was not long before I felt the need of seek- 
ing new inspirations elsewhere. 

The too prolonged sight of the same objects in the 
end dulls the emotions. The mind constantly revolving 
in the same circle of observation loses its elasticity. 

The peasants no longer inspired me as formerly, and 
my imagination exhausted itself in chimerical dreams. 

Finding everything commonplace and unworthy of 
reproduction, I grew extremely indolent. I felt it an 
effort to look for models, and the finest of these did not 
please me when they were in the studio — not even the 
tall Augustine of the " Turkey Keeper " and the " Day's 
Work Done." 

Even the very sunshine seemed sad in this insig- 
nificant country ! 

And I caught glimpses, in my dreams, of distant 
shores flooded with light — sublime scenes, peopled by 
beings of extraordinary beauty. 

I had never traveled, and these visions of light im- 
pelled me to the south of France. I did not yet dare to 
dream of Italy. 

By a happy coincidence at this critical moment, 
Count Duchatel, who had bought my " Weeders," de- 
siring a companion-piece to that picture, invited me to 
Medoc to witness the vintage of his estate of Chateau- 



Lagrange. He had given me this motive as the subject 
of his order. 

The occasion was found. I would return by the 

And I became more and more absorbed every day 
in my glowing dreams. 

One city, especially, attracted me — Aries. Aries the 
Greek ! Written, this name dazzled me ; spoken, it 
ravished my ear by its indescribable sweetness. Aries ! 

In the mirages of my imagination I beheld it seated 
on the banks of its sapphire river, that wound like a 
peacock's neck between its white and gilded walls. I 
pictured it to myself as situated in an ideal plain, while 
its suburbs reposed on horizontal rocks, like the immense 
steps of a Cyclopean amphitheatre. The pearly-gray 
hue of these rocks cast into relief the brilliant bloom of 
the clumps of oleanders which grew in their crevices. 
The houses had a simplicity, a harmony of line, a just- 
ness of proportion, which charmed at once. Separated 
by groves of olives and orange-trees, they bordered long 
streets flooded with light. Noble beings, with pure pro- 
files, firm, rounded necks, and olive complexions, of dig- 
nified and unaffected mien, walked through them — beings 
endowed not only with the beauty of the Greeks, but 
also with their love for and their comprehension of the 

Magnificent antique ruins added to, but did not con- 
stitute, the beauty of the city, playing there the part of 
ancestral portraits. 

The temperature must be mild there. In winter its 
hills sheltered it on the north, in summer the fountains 
and the breeze from the river brought it coolness. Such 
was the Aries of my dreams. 

And I set out full of enthusiasm, intoxicated with 
the impatient happiness of youth. I set out alone, and 



my enthusiasm, without anyone to moderate it, gave full 
play to its poetic ardor. 

And I fancied I discovered marvels in the things 
among which I had passed my childhood, and which 
only presented themselves to me under a different aspect 
and differently grouped, but transfigured, as it were, in 
the light cast upon them by my imagination : " There 
are the Apennines, there the Caucasus ! " 

O deceptive intoxication of our first travels ! O the 
danger of loving a country for that which distinguishes 
it from other countries and of forgetting grand and uni- 
versal Nature, whose laws are everywhere manifest ! 

How impatient I was ! 

First the Loire ! 

But how irritating it is to travel by railroad ! For a 
long time I suffered the tortures of Tantalus, obliged as 
I was to be satisfied with divining the river through the 
distant poplars which bordered its banks ; then I caught 
glimpses of it through the hedges, the railway stations, 
and the trains standing on the road, all which made me 
fume ; at last I was entranced by the full view of the 
enchanted river dominated by the sleeping chateaux on 
its banks. 

Not even Mangin, who, his cap on his head, retailed 
his crayons and his puns in front of the Palace of Justice 
— not even Mangin himself could draw me from my 
dream ! 

This Palace of Justice seemed to me none the less, 
however, to resemble the Parthenon. There were there 
immense elms, and rainbows spanning the jets of the 
fountains ! Gazelles (sic, I added in the letter I wrote 
to my wife) roamed at will in the garden of the pre- 

And the sunshine ! How it streamed ! I thought 
myself already in the south ! 



And to think that wonders like these were to suc- 
ceed one another in ever-increasing splendor until we 
should reach Aries ! 

This state of mental intoxication lasted the whole 
time of my stay in Medoc. 

I arrived at the Chateau of Lagrange at the time of 
the vintage of 1862. 

When I reached the chateau I found every one out 
visiting, with the exception of the head of the family. 

I directed myself to the steward, who showed me to 
my room, and sent me the valet who was to attend me. 

After making some changes in my toilet, I pre- 
sented myself in the study of Count Duchatel, whom I 
found absorbed in the perusal of some lengthy docu- 
ment. He received me with a somewhat brusque kind- 
ness, and with so much simplicity and cordiality of 
manner, that he put me immediately at my ease. 

His expression was identical with that of his bust 
by Chapu, now in the Louvre, in the hall to which his 
name was given in recognition of his presentation to 
the Museum, of some work of art. 

A broad forehead, raised eyebrows, indicating intel- 
ligence ; small, bright, gray eyes with sparse lashes ; a 
large, well-rooted aquiline nose ; a mouth benevolent, 
although shrewd in expression, whose corners were ha- 
bitually drawn up by an indulgent irony; a powerful and 
prominent chin, expressive of self-will ; a massive head ; 
a body strongly built and slightly obese, easy and digni- 
fied in its movements — such was the first impression I 
received of Count Duchatel. 

This retired statesman loved both nature and the 
arts ; and notwithstanding his habitual intercourse with 
the highest society (perhaps for that very reason, for ex- 
tremes meet), had in his general appearance something 



He spoke little. His knowledge of men and things 
often plunged him into fits of silent meditation, which 
he would interrupt occasionally to throw out some short 
and pointed remark. 

He liked to indulge in a gentle raillery, blended with 
that sort of amiable skepticism which is often acquired 
in political life. 

The vast H6tel of the Rue de Varenne threw open 
its doors to the residents of the Faubourg Saint Ger- 
main, but Lagrange extended its hospitality to a few 
intimate friends only, one of those who most frequently 
came there as a guest being Monsieur Vitet, of the French 
Academy. m 

In the evening there were often reunions at the 
chateau, composed of the proprietors of the neighboring 
estates, and Madame Duchatel sometimes gave dinners 
and fetes. 

On leaving Count Duchatel's study, I descended to 
the drawing-room, and it was not long before I saw the 
carriages returning, containing the Duke and the Duch- 
ess of La Tremoille, a newly-married couple overflowing 
with spirits, a few guests, and the soul of the chateau, 
the admirable woman who was called Countess Du- 

I was her compatriot, she being a native of Douai, 
and she laid stress upon this fact in the friendly welcome 
she accorded me. 

She was more than a gracious lady; she was an 
adorable woman, and, I may say, that during the two 
seasons I spent at Lagrange I never for a single instant 
saw her when she was not occupied in contributing to 
the happiness or comfort of others, extending her so- 
licitude to the poor as well as to the rich. 

She was possessed of as much energy as sweetness 
of character, and one day during a walk she related to 


me with touching simplicity some tragic incidents of 
the Revolution of February, in which she had displayed 
genuine heroism. 

As may be seen from a portrait of her by Winter- 
halter, painted at the time of her residence at the house 
of the Minister of the Interior, she had in her youth been 
superbly beautiful, with a beauty of a blonde, Flemish 
type, like one of Rubens' goddesses. 

She was now much thinner, but. notwithstanding her 
years, her countenance still preserved a youthful and 
charming expression. 

An incident related by her in a letter to me dated 
December 3, 1863, will give some idea of her goodness 
of heart. I quote the passage referring to it, and which, 
in the moral beauty it unconsciously reveals, is more 
eloquent than any words of mine could be. It is as 
follows : 

" I have had a keen sorrow since your departure. 
My poor Flemish coachman, just as the surgeon who 
was attending him'at Bordeaux thought him cured — he 
had written to me on the 2d that he was going to send 
him back — died on the 5th of last month. I went to 
Bordeaux and spent there in the hospital, at Alfred's 
bedside, two very sad days. 

" Erysipelas declared itself, spread over the body, 
and — 

"I have just learned, and I think it well to mention 
the fact to you, that a whitlow is always a serious thing, 
and should be attended to at once, especially when it is 
the result of a sting." 

Ah, how simple is true charity ! This great lady sees 
no special merit in leaving the society of her friends to 
go and spend two days at Bordeaux, in a gloomy hos- 
pital, to console her dying coachman ; and she is mind- 
ful, in writing to a friend, of pointing out the danger of 


neglecting an ailment more serious than it is generally 
thought to be — always intent on being of service to 

But when we consider her life spent among the 
splendors and the futilities of the great world, we may 
well see in this action something not far from saintli- 

I can picture to myself the close friendship that was 
later to unite her and her daughter-in-law, the younger 
Countess Duchatel, who was to die so young, and whose 
remarkable life was the subject of an obituary notice 
which touched us deeply and awoke our sympathetic 
admiration, for Marie d'Harcourt had a highly endowed 
mind, and a soul that responded to every noble emo- 

There was no thought of her at Lagrange at this 
time, however. The Viscount Duchatel, her future hus- 
band, could not have even dreamed of her, child as she 
then was. 

Elegant and distinguished in appearance, but ex- 
tremely reserved in his manner, the viscount was re- 
garded as somewhat cold, somewhat supercilious even, 
by the beautiful ladies who visited the chateau. In re- 
ality he was not fond of society, preferring study, soli- 
tary meditation, or conversation with intimate friends. 

Sometimes he would escape from the drawing-room 
when the merriment was at its height, taking me with 
him to his room to smoke a cigar there. He was at 
such times gay and communicative, but with an under- 
current of seriousness ; for his cold exterior concealed 
a heart capable of the tenderest friendship This re- 
serve kept him from being greatly influenced by his sur- 
roundings, and while his fellow-aristocrats still cherished 
their illusions, more pious than rational, regarding the 
monarchy, he frankly attached himself to the republic, 


serving it first as deputy, and afterward brilliantly 
representing it as ambassador at Copenhagen, Brussels, 
and Vienna. 

I do not know whether, at the time of which I 
speak, he had already begun to indulge in nobly-am- 
bitious dreams, but he appeared to enjoy less than any 
of us the amusements going on at the chateau — the 
hunts and pleasure parties which the brilliant couple, 
his brother-in-law and sister, the Duke and Duchess 
of La Tr^moille, animated by their amiable gayety. 

I remember there was a pretty girl, engaged in the 
vintage, whom the ladies of the chateau called Made- 
moiselle de Bardouillant, from the name of her native 

She was posing for me one day, and Count Du- 
chatel complimenting her on her beauty, as a chatelaine 
of the neighborhood chanced to be passing by, the lat- 
ter cast a disdainful glance, full of offensive meaning, at 
the young girl. 

When the lady had passed, the former minister of 
Louis Philippe whispered to me : " She is jealous of 
her. Beauty, you see, constitutes the real aristocracy 
among women." 

Meanwhile, during the whole time of my stay at La- 
grange, I had never ceased for a moment to see in the 
distance the Promised Land, the long dreamed-of south, 
and, above all, Aries ! 


At last I saw the true South ! I fell into an ecstasy 
at the sight of the first stunted olive tree that bent its 
puny branches before the mistral. 


I was so eager to arrive at Aries that I stopped only 
at Toulouse, Montpellier, and Nimes. 

I reached Avignon in the evening just as twilight 
was beginning to fall. 

In-order to obtain a general view of the city at once, 
I proudly crossed the Rhone, the Rhone that I had 
never hoped to see, and whose course I had so many 
times followed on the map at school. 

The sun had sunk behind the terraced hills on the 
right bank of the river, diffusing a warm glow through- 
out the atmosphere, and striking with his fiery arrows 
the white summit of the Ventoux. 

The city was not yet wrapped in darkness, but, red- 
dened by the warm light from the west, quivered in the 
mists that rose from the river, like the steam that arises 
from water into which a red-hot iron has been plunged. 

Transfigured in the warm light, the palace of the 
popes raised on high its enormous mass, which seemed 
still larger from the crenelated forts at its base. The 
gilded Virgin of the basilica shone in the light, and, 
higher up, in the rose-tinted gray sky, the full moon 
glimmered like a host. 

This wonderful picture was reflected back from the 
bosom of the sleeping Rhone. 

Ah, how I pitied my poor Artois ! " This," I cried, 
" is the true land of art ; here is the real magic of light 
and color ! Here are outlines to make a Poussin de- 
spair ! And to-morrow I shall see Aries." 

And I saw thee, Aries ! 

On that day the mistral blew pitilessly. The city 
shivered in the cold and gloomy light. The Rhone ex- 
haled fever-laden mists. 

In the gray light, under a gray sky, the gray streets 
looked grayer still. 

My soul was oppressed by a melancholy yet more 


gray. The women I met were ugly, the men uglier still, 
and spleen took possession of me in this tomb-like city. 

And I remembered with regret the tender green wil- 
lows that dipped their silvery foliage in the crystal 
waters of the springs of the Artois. 

I returned by way of Lyon. I made a detour, taking 
in St. Etienne, where I had the joy of embracing my 
youngest brother, Ludovic Breton, at that time a pupil 
in the Central School of Arts and Trades, and lately 
chief engineer of the submarine tunnel of the British 
Channel, a work which, it is to be hoped, has not been 
finally abandoned. The difference in our pursuits and 
our professions has always kept us apart, but our hearts 
have not for that reason been the less united. 

The son of another mother, and our junior by fifteen 
or sixteen years, he had had no part in our childhood. 

This happy day, spent in my brother's society, in- 
creased still more my desire to see my native place 

I traversed Burgundy, completely indifferent to all I 

The charm was broken. And then, almost all the 
time the rain fell in torrents, casting a gloom over every- 
thing, and I shut my eyes in order to see again my 
native village and its pleasant marsh, where the alders 
were bleeding from their wounds. 

At last I saw again, indeed, its peaceful belfry, tow- 
ering above the elms. I found myself again alone in 
that vast white plain where I had run about when a 

The wheat was ripening. Late carnations gently 
swayed their white cups. The roads, white with dust, 
like the crust of a good loaf, wound gracefully through 
the fields, scarcely distinguishable in the distance by an 
exquisitely delicate violet line of shadow. The short 


grass, soft as velvet, followed their course. Here and 
there fine thistles proudly raised their carmine crowns, 
or let their silky white hair float on the evening breeze. 

An opal sky, in which floated a few golden clouds, 
roofed this sea of golden grain, carnations, clover, and 

The wide belt of the horizon quivered in the dis- 
tance, broken by belfry towers, groups of pale poplars, 
and drooping willows. 

Never before had I so fully understood the tender- 
ness, the peace, and the humble majesty of this scene. 

Penetrated by it, my soul was stirred to its inmost 
fibers, a pious enthusiasm moistened my eyes, and I cried 
remorsefully, u This is the country that I would have 
fled from ! " 


What remained in my mind of all the keen emotions 
awakened in it by the scenery of the South ? Nothing 
which I could profit by, as far as my art was concerned, 
but enough to make me admire anew, and more enthu- 
siastically than before, the simple sylvan beauty that 
surrounded me. 

I tried in vain to transfer to canvas a few of the im- 
pressions received during this journey, which I had 
thought at the time I experienced them so fruitful. I 
could succeed with none of them. 

I was even obliged to defer my " Vintage " till the 
following year, the observations I had made of the sub- 
ject not having been sufficiently accurate, owing to my 
poetic enthusiasm at the time. 

Travel renews and refreshes the spirit, but it is not 
well to abuse it, following the example of those tourists 


who glance at everything, but observe nothing pro- 

The attraction of novelty, as we have seen, may 
make us admire enthusiastically things less beautiful 
than others, which satiety makes us flee from. And 
then a first impression is at the mercy of a mood, or 
even of the state of the stomach. 

Thus, gloomy weather, and perhaps a fit of indi- 
gestion, had sufficed to render me absolutely unjust 
toward the city of Aries, which, when I saw it later, 
pleased me greatly. Let us travel, but let us have a 
safe retreat in which to nourish our thoughts. 


In the depths of my hermitage, however, after a few 
months' solitude, I felt an imperious necessity to revisit 

Paris is the ardent generator of ideas, and the great 
touchstone of merit. A work of art, no matter what its 
reputation elsewhere, is always a little doubtful until it 
has undergone this test. 

It is a curious fact that the moment one sets foot in 
Paris the mind is enlightened. 

You are a painter. You take there your picture, 
long thought over and worked at in solitude. During 
its execution you have had alternations of satisfaction 
and of discontent. At times it seemed to you luminous 
and splendid, at times dull and expressionless. Which 
is it in reality? 

No sooner have you descended from the railway- 
carriage than you traverse the streets of Paris. Before 


having seen any one, before opening the case which 
contains your painting, you have already judged it. 

A light has entered your mind which establishes in 
your confused judgment the just proportions of things. 

This is because Paris is the center toward which 
converge all the currents of human thought, and which 
is surrounded by an atmosphere in whose searching and 
impartial light the Ego is at once clearly defined for him 
who knows how to see. 

A thousand diverse elements flow from all sides into 
this crucible, which is constantly in operation, and in 
which the pure metal is separated from the dross. 

Elsewhere one observes ; in Paris one comprehends. 
Here no one loiters. Every one walks on rapidly, think- 
ing of his own affairs.* 

It is a singular fact, too, that when I am in Paris I 
fancy I recognize the faces of those I meet in the streets. 
I do not experience this feeling in any other city. This 
is because Paris reunites the various types one has seen 
elsewhere, and which strike one like old acquaintances, 
made one does not remember where. 

It will be seen that each journey I made to Paris was 
the occasion of fresh self-examination and of useful ob- 
servations, without taking into account the pleasure I 
felt in seeing my friends again. 

* Paris has sometimes its aberrations, as we have lately seen, 
but happily they do not last long. The birds of prey destroy one 



One of my first visits on arriving in Paris was to the 
Boite a The. 

This was the name given to a building at the rear 
of No. 70, Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, containing a 
dozen studios, and decorated on the outside with Chinese 

There Hamon, Gerome, Toulmouche, Schutzem- 
berger, Brion, and Lauwick worked for a longer or 
shorter period. My friend Jean Aubert, a follower of 
Hamon, and who created a whole mythology of charm- 
ing infant gods and goddesses, lived a few steps away. 

I have been at gay banquets with those excellent 
companions, at which was also present (and not always 
without committing some misdemeanor) the monkey 
Jacques, a pet of Ger6me, and who sat at the table on 
a seat made like a child's chair. 

I should like to speak of all these clever artists, but, 
with the exception of one or two of the veterans of art, 
I have made it a rule to speak only of those who are no 
longer living. 

I had a strong affection for Hamon, and who would 
not have loved this singularly unaffected man, so frankly 
epicurean in all his tendencies ? 

The name — Hamon — has an antique sound. 

The man himself had something of the antique also. 
Even his chief defect, intemperance, had in his case a 
certain Attic decency. When he was drunk, his intoxi- 
cation had nothing gross in it. It resembled the delir- 
ium inspired by a nobler passion. 

At such times he was extremely sentimental ; and I 
have heard that one day in the Campagna of Rome, in 
one of those moments of Bacchic exaltation, after a 


violent altercation with a friend, which on his side had 
ended in repentance, he sat down on a rock on the 
bank of the Tiber and let his tears fall into the river. 

Ingenuous and frank to excess, he could not have 
kept a secret, even if his life had depended upon it. 

In the mannerisms of his style, too, there is a great 
deal of naiveti. His affectation has a natural grace. 

He was a pupil of Gleyre, the father of the Neo- 

But at the same time that he drew his inspiration 
from the ancients, and especially from Pompeii, it may 
be said that his style was that of Hamon ; or, rather, he 
was a Greek of the decadence in exile among us, who 
was born after his time. 

His simplicity was childlike. 

His life was made up of acts of thoughtlessness, of 
bursts of tenderness, of little misunderstandings, of dis- 
plays of disinterested benevolence, and of that uncon- 
scious goodness to which everything is pardoned, even 
neglect, which passes for absent-mindedness. 

He had a momentary triumph with il My Absent 
Sister." He accepted it without astonishment and with- 
out vanity, but he was more sensitive with regard to the 
criticisms which were showered upon him at a time 
when he least looked for them. 

He painted a great deal at Capri. When his pictures 
were finished he took them to Naples, where he would 
remain a few weeks to rest ; and if any one asked him 
at such times if he were working, he would answer : " I 
can not work — I can not work ; I am waiting for the 

His style is wanting in force, but he has ingenuity, 
grace, and genuine tenderness. He is himself. He 
would have expressed himself in the same manner even 
if his subjects had been different. 


This Breton peasant, who had begun life as a farm- 
er's boy, as he himself took pleasure in relating, had 
preserved to some extent his plebeian appearance, but 
he had, at the same time, something of the air of an 
apostle or of an ancient philosopher. 

He himself seemed enveloped in the cloudy veil 
which he cast over his painting. 

His wandering gaze reached one as if through a mist. 

The same vagueness seemed to pervade his conver- 
sation, which was full of unforeseen turns, and of deli- 
cate but irrelevant sallies of wit. 

His mind was always occupied with some poetic 
dream, but he had no pretension to profundity of 

Art critics have striven to find some concealed mean- 
ing, some subtle intention, in the fantastic picture in 
which Hamon represents the shades of the great men 
of antiquity grouped around a Theatre Guignol in the 
Champs-Elysees. I asked him one day what he had 
meant to signify by this picture. " Nothing," he an- 
swered ; " I only imagine that things took place in the 
Elysian Fields of the ancients pretty much as they do 
in those of Paris." 

He would stop you in the midst of a conversation to 
utter, without rhyme or reason, some such phrase as 
tl O ! la la ! des plis ! " or, " That is like Monsieur 

Monsieur Ingres haunted him. He regretted not 
having gone to the funeral of Flandrin, in order to have 
seen Monsieur Ingres weep. 

Some one asked him in my presence if he had read 
the " Voyage Autour de ma Chambre." 

He fell into a revery, remained silent for a time, and 
then suddenly cried : " Stay ! What if I should make a 
journey around Monsieur Ingres? " 


Not long afterward he painted " The Sorrowful 
Shore," where the shades of the great men of antiquity 
are represented walking in procession, while waiting to 
cross the Styx, around Monsieur Ingres, who wears a 
mitre on his head, and holds in his hand the obole des- 
tined for Charon. 

He did not copy directly from nature, but he went 
into the country with his box to mix his colors, compar- 
ing them by means of his palette-knife with the objects 
which he wished to paint. 

We were at one time in Brittany, and had just seen 
at the Pardon those filthy beggars with their factitious 
wounds, whom I have described. At the table-d'hote 
several rich Englishmen, just about to leave the country, 
were chatting together. One of them said he would 
take with him as a souvenir a horse ; another said he 
would take a cow. Suddenly Hamon cried : " I have 
an idea ; I will take with me a beggar ! " 

There was no premeditation in these absurd sayings, 
which came as naturally to him as his unconscious good- 

One of his cock-and-bull stories has become tradi- 
tional : 

Every one knows that one of the first measures of the 
Provisional Government of 1848 was the abolition of 
the crack companies of the National Guard and of bear- 
skin caps. 

Just at that time, however, a number of artists had 
met at the School of Fine Arts to take counsel together, 
led by their love for the picturesque, regarding the style 
of head-gear they should adopt to distinguish them from 
other human beings. Hamon mounted the platform and 
proposed the bear-skin caps, then out of use ; and as this 
provoked a general laugh he waited until silence was 
restored and then continued, with the greatest cool- 


ness, "The bear-skin caps, but — without the bear- 
skin \ " 

I should like to say a few words also regarding my 
friend Nazon, whom I visited often at that time, and 
who, God be thanked, is still in the enjoyment of good 
health ; but, as he has voluntarily retired from the scene 
in which we thought him destined to play an important 
part, and is now living in obscurity in his native town, 
I think it not out of place to recall him to the minds of 
those who knew him. 

Nazon (another name which has an antique sound) 
resembled at that time an Etruscan, with his profile 
forming an almost unbroken line, and his head covered 
with harsh, thick locks rising above his forehead like a 

Absorbed in his own thoughts he walked along with 
great strides, his toes slightly turned in, his chest swell- 
ing out, his long nose, pointed like that of an ant-eater, 
emerging from the scarf wound about his neck, as if to 
snuff in whatever news might be circulating in the 

For this excellent companion, who was so cordial in 
his manners, though he was intolerant of everything that 
savored of vulgarity, was an indefatigable talker, and 
exceedingly witty. 

He had made a brilliant debut as a painter. I re- 
member especially a southern landscape representing a 
long wall with curves full of style, against which leaned 
a little girl, guarding a flock of turkeys — a picture pos- 
sessing a powerful charm, of sober and delicate coloring, 
and absolutely original at the time of its appearance. 

We expected him to become a great landscape-paint- 
er, and only to think that he should prefer the retire- 
ment of a country life at Montauban ! 

Gustave Brion was a man of average but admirably 



balanced endowments. He designed with ease, and was 
well acquainted with the technic of his art. 

He was a big boy, who greeted his friends cordially 
whenever he met them, although he preferred to lead a 
retired life. The only noise he made was when he 
played his guitar, or when he drew some melody from 
his harmonium. 

He was a skillful illustrator, and worked with great 
ease and ingenuity. 

He painted a great variety of subjects, passing from 
Alsatian peasants to the patriarchs of the Bible, and 
from Breton peasants to the mountebanks of the middle 

His " Reading the Bible," an austere painting of fine 
design, procured for him the medal of honor. 

He soon left the Boite & ThJ for a house built for 
him by our friend Hugelin, his compatriot, and an archi- 
tect of a great deal of taste. He surrounded himself 
there v/ith curious articles of bric-h-brac and rare plants, 
spending many peaceful hours in cultivating the flowers 
in his conservatory and his little garden, and drinking 
between times the excellent beer which he imported 
from Strasbourg, his native place, and which he de- 
lighted to offer to his friends. 

He ended by confining himself entirely to the house, 
and his health suffered in consequence. 

He grew too stout. His speech, which had never 
been fluent, finally became obstructed, and we learned 
one day that this excellent man and skillful artist had 
died suddenly. 

At the time of my acquaintance with him, in 1853, 
he occupied, with Schutzemberger, a studio at 53 Rue 
Notre-Dame-des-Champs, the same house in which I 
had lived with Delalleau. 

He there painted his best pictures, those which have 



the most character — " The Skaters of the Black Forest " 
and " Gathering Potatoes during an Inundation." Schutz- 
emberger also painted a fine picture — " Alsatian Mowers 
at Daybreak." The peasants, it is evident, were painted 
in the open air. 

Brion obtained a second medal this year, as did also 

In the same house dwelt also Bonvin, who at that 
time painted young infantry recruits. 

What a singular man this Bonvin was ! 

At first view he had the appearance of an ordinary 
workman, but one was not long in discovering in his 
eyes and in his ironical mouth tokens of an extreme 
acuteness of intellect. 

He was, indeed, one of the wittiest men I have ever 
known, but his sallies were not always altogether harm- 

In his moments of enthusiasm he had delightful in- 

On the day of his marriage he said to his young 
bride, at the end of the wedding banquet, " Do not for- 
get that you have entered a family honored by the sword 
and gown." His father had been a rustic guard at Mont- 
rouge and his mother a seamstress. 

On another occasion, passing at the exhibition in 
front of a picture in which the artist had carried the 
tricks of still-life deception to excess, Bonvin perceived 
a goose-quill lying on the floor and, picking it up, and 
taking in the painting with a rapid glance, he handed 
the feather to the keeper of the hall, saying : " Take 
care of this ; it must have fallen from that picture 

On the day on which we celebrated the reception of 
Brion's medal the latter had drunk so deeply to his suc- 
cess that he left a part of his wits at the bottom of his 



glass. Bonvin teased him, saying to him in portentous 
accents : " Distrust yourself ! Don't be too sure of your 
success ! " Then he took the last gold piece from 
Brion's waistcoat-pocket. The latter, beginning to be 
weary of this pleasantry, grew angry, and Bonvin, wav- 
ing the louis d'or under his nose, said to him: ''You 
are all right, you have your friends to fall back upon ; 
but what is to become of poor me, who have taken the 
last twenty-franc piece you had in your pocket from 
you ? " 

Such are the recollections I retain of Bonvin, that 
gifted artist, that Gaul who spent his life in studying 
the old Flemish painters, whose delicacy, it must be 
confessed, he did not succeed in imitating. Nor did he 
succeed better with his copies of Lenain, whose vigorous 
firmness of touch he did not possess. 

At that period I saw again, too, my old fellow- 
students of the Studio Drolling, some of whom, follow- 
ing the example of Baudry, had begun to make a name 
for themselves at the annual exhibitions. 

Among these was poor Marchal, the gay jester, the 
friend of the most brilliant writers of the time, whom he 
entertained by his inexhaustible spirits and his bonmots. 
What delicate good-nature ! What cordial effusiveness 
of manner ! How did this artist, who dissipated his 
energies in so many ways, still find time and strength to 
paint ? He painted, however, and he brought to his 
work, it must be acknowledged, true conscientiousness, 
especially at the beginning of his career. I have wit- 
nessed many of his valiant efforts. 

Unhappily, this witty conversationalist, who was so 
original in his amusing paradoxes, could never rid him- 
self, in his painting, of a sort of bourgeois taste. 

Influenced by friendship, the critics of his acquaint- 
ance took no notice of this defect, and, instead of point- 



ing it out to him, praised greatly certain pictures of his 
which were full of didactic and commonplace sentimen- 
tality — enthusiastic eulogies which they redoubled in the 
case of his picture " Penelope and Phryne." 

" I think they must be all crazy," he said to me on 
this occasion. " Imagine that I have received more 
than eighty letters full of enthusiastic congratulations ! " 

I remember, in fact, that this sentimental picture 
was received with universal acclamation by the press. 
The Sheep of Panurge, you know. 

The reaction was terrible. Two or three years later 
the career of poor Marchal was ended, a result brought 
about by the very exaggeration of his success. The 
public grew tired of him. There were no more pur- 
chases for his pictures. 

He resorted then to repetitions of those of his pict- 
ures which had formerly been successful. 

Pecuniary embarrassment came. 

One day Marchal was found, dressed in irreproach- 
able evening costume, lifeless upon his bed. He had 
killed himself, having even in this last fatal act paid due 
regard to the proprieties, as was becoming to a gentle- 

Happily for his memory, he left behind him two 
meritorious pictures, the " Choral of Luther " and the 
" Servants' Fair." 


I liked to mount the long stairs that led to the 
studio of Feyen-Perrin in the Rue Mazarine ; for I saw, 
each time with renewed pleasure, this good friend, who 
was a painter of a vivid, fertile, and poetic imagina- 




I have dwelt elsewhere upon his personal beauty and 
his ardent devotion to study. 

He had come from the borders of the Moselle, a 
charming river which washes away in places its banks, 
like those of the Tiber, flowing through a country that 
recalls, at a distance, the Campagna of Rome. He had 
there mingled the intoxication of his youthful passions 
with the delight produced in his soul by the spectacle 
of Nature. He still kept the ardent enthusiasm and the 
dreamy melancholy of that time. His art was imbued 
with them. 

The long line of his beautiful girls will be remem- 
bered, their silhouettes denned against the sea-mist 
or bathed in the violet or saffron vapors of twilight. 
Nor have we forgotten his beautiful nude women, his 
"Snake" and his " Milky Way," in which, notwith- 
standing the malady that was undermining his health, 
he showed constant progress, proving that he was far 
from having produced the best work of which he was 

At one time I met him frequently with his brother 
and earliest master, Eugene Feyen, in the Alsatian 
brewery of the Rue Jacob. 

The last days of the empire were at hand. 

I shall not mention all the persons distinguished for 
their intelligence who came to occupy the benches of 
this brewery, a center of friendly reunion where dis- 
cussions on art were prolonged far into the night. 

The new-comers seated themselves at first on the 
little table near the door, gradually approached us, and, 
if they were presented, ended by joining us. 

More than one distinguished character of the pres- 
ent day made that little table the starting-point in his 
career ; in particular, the young and eloquent advocate, 
who soon seemed to be making ready, in our little 


csenaculum, for future contests in the tribune to which 
he was to be called. 

He pronounced before us, among other discourses, 
a magnificent speech on the day on which we learned 
of the death of Maximilian, the Emperor of Mexico ; 
and which, in an apostrophe to Napoleon III, ended 
with these words : " That will be your Waterloo ! " 

This young advocate, this ardent patriot and earnest 
democrat, was the bearer of a very obscure name, L£on 

Assuredly he did not dream at that time of the 
glorious monument of the Place du Carrousel. 

In 1875, when he was at the height of his fame, as I 
was recalling to him one day, while he was smoking his 
after-dinner cigar, those hours spent at the brewery, he 
cried : " Good heavens ! how many times have I been 
reproached with them ! " 

Here, too, used to come the delightful humorist 
Toussenel; the young poet Pierre Dupont; Achard, a 
cross-grained but good-natured old fellow, one of the 
earliest of our landscape-painters, and so conscientious 
in his art that he worked for three years at the same 
picture, painted from nature, and was in despair when 
he found, on returning to his subject the following 
spring, that an umbelliferous plant, frozen during the 
winter, had not sprouted again. Then there were Jules 
Hereau, who was soon to meet with a tragic death, be- 
fore he had succeeded in accomplishing all he was capa- 
ble of ; and Blin, on whom we had founded so many 
hopes, but who died young, just after he had painted 
his masterpiece — a masterpiece indeed ! 

The Emperor Maximilian had bought from him this 
painting, which represented a lake, on whose bosom 
glided a bark among reeds and rushes, and which re- 
flected back the sky — a marvel of pearly transparency. 


Blin had given proof of fine qualities in several of 
his works, but this one seemed to us so superior to all 
the others that it was like a revelation. 

Unfortunately, this picture was destroyed at the 
time of the devastation of the palace of the unfortunate 

Poor Blin ! On that day you died for the second 
time ! 

Among our friends of the brewery was also the ec- 
centric Gustave Dore, that artist whose wonderfully 
luxuriant and fantastic imagination was like a magical 
forest haunted by marvelous apparitions. 

When he ought to have been enjoying tranquilly the 
brilliant success of his crayons he was to be seen always 
preoccupied and often sad, though he would at times 
suddenly break out into fits of gayety, like a schoolboy 
let loose from school, doubtless seeking in this way to 
deaden thought, for this fertile and inexhaustible de- 
signer suffered during his whole career from an open 
wound, which probably caused his death — the chagrin 
of seeing his fellow-artists pass with indifference before 
his immense canvases, on which he had placed all his 
hopes, but which were in a style of art for which his 
genius was not adapted. 

A great many others came to our reunions in the 
Rue Jacob — Nazon, Gattineau, our dear and charming 
Armand Silvestre, and the sculptor Carpeaux, who gave 
promise of rivaling Pusjet, a rude carver of stone, exiled 
in the midst of the luxuries to which an aristocratic 
marriage had raised him ; Carpeaux, the famous author 
of " Flora " and " Ugolino," and whose obsequies Valen- 
ciennes celebrated with regal magnificence. 



But, among all the pupils of Drolling, Gustave Jundt 
was the one whom I most loved. He it was to whom I 
always paid my first visit. 

In his studio in the Rue d'Assas were heaped up, in 
picturesque confusion, a multitude of objects and cos- 
tumes of the peasantry of the different countries where 
he had made studies — Alsace, the Black Forest, Brittany, 
and Auvergne — the latter hanging out of half-open 
trunks, the former heaped up in dusty corners among 
canvases, palettes, enormous pipes, and newspapers. On 
a table was a mountain of letters, his entire correspond- 
ence during the past ten years, and a heap of old tubes 
which had been emptied and twisted up. 

In the mornings I would find him still in bed in his 
little room, smoking his large cherry-wood pipe, and 
looking over the newspaper. 

On seeing me he would utter a joyful exclamation, 
half rising up in bed, and repressing, at times, the ex- 
pression of pain, caused by a sudden twinge of his rheu- 
matism, which, however, took nothing from the effusive- 
ness of his joyous welcome. 

No sooner was he out of bed than he would go, often 
before he was fully dressed, to the piano, to limber his 
gouty fingers, singing or whistling to its accompaniment, 
and abandoning himself to the genuine musical inspira- 
tions that came into his head — reminiscences or improvi- 
sations, on which he bestowed a delightful charm. 

He would begin spiritedly, to give vent to his gayety, 
and then, yielding himself up to the delightful melodies 
that seemed to float around him, his voice would assume 
accents so tender that I have never heard any virtuoso 
who delighted me so much. 



Then he would place his pictures on the easel to 
show them to me, and it was necessary to be very cautious 
in giving an opinion of them, for each new counsel was 
immediately followed, at the risk of destroying in a mo- 
ment the labor of a week. One should see with what 
rash haste he dipped his rag in the essence and rubbed 
his canvas with it, scraping off the color with his palette- 
knife, demolishing and reconstructing in the twinkling 
of an eye ! 

For those who saw him only in public, Jundt was 
nothing more than a gay viveur, with a heart as warm as 
the color of his long locks and his beard, whose bright 
gold seemed to reflect the sunshine. He was perpetual- 
ly laughing — a frank, good-humored, and irresistibly 
contagious laugh. 

He made the most daring accusations, in which he 
always seemed to have right on his side, with impertur- 
bable self-possession. Some of these are still remem- 

He had an iron constitution and a prodigious appe- 
tite ; he had a tendency to embonpoint, and, although 
he limped on account of his gout, his gait was full of 
aristocratic grace. His whole being radiated an inalter- 
able gayety. 

There was in him a blending of the faun and the 
grand seignior. 

But what a heart of gold for those who enjoyed his 
friendship ! How much tenderness of soul and true 
genius this wild gayety concealed ! 

I fancy I can see him now as I saw him five or six 
summers ago, toward the close of his life, at our reunions 
in Montgeron at the house of my children. 

We would go to meet him. He would come toward 
us, limping with his gout and leaning on his cane, an- 
nouncing himself from a distance by some Homeric ex- 



clamation of boisterous joy, along a little path bordered 
by the innumerable flowers with which he loved to 
enamel the turf of his sunny pictures, and which he let 
fall with so light a touch, and whose stems he would 
scratch in skillfully with the handle of his brush, all the 
time humming snatches of some melody. 

The cloudless sky, the greenery, and the flowers, all 
these served to augment his joy, which would bubble 
over in childlike ebullitions of gayety. 

And then, when he executed his grand morning 
symphony ! 

He would begin by some rural prelude, imitating the 
bleating of the sheep and the tinkling of the sheep-bells, 
and, to this accompaniment, would follow all the sounds 
of rural life — faint and distant lowings, loud neighings, 
cackling of geese, crowing of cocks, clucking of hens, 
yelping of dogs, braying of donkeys — all rendered with 
perfect truth to nature, and an indescribable accentua- 
tion which elevated this mimicry to the dignity of an art. 

And one could fancy one's self drinking in the morn- 
ing mists, inhaling the perfume of the new-mown hay 
and the odor of the dung-hill, and the rustic picture 
presented itself in life-like colors to the imagination. 

One day when he was to dine at Montgeron with 
Lemoyne, that landscape-painter of the pen, Heredia, 
the prince of sonnetteers, and the celebrated Leconte 
de Lisle, Jundt took it into his head on the way to write 
some crambo verses, absolutely idiotic in themselves, but 
composed of impassioned or Scriptural words, such as 
love, flame, sobs, tears, Zion, Jerusalem, and the like. 

As he gave them to me to read, I looked at them in 
consternation, asking myself if he were crazy. 

"You do not appear to comprehend the beauty of 
those verses," he said to me, " but you will see by and 
by, after dinner." 


And after dinner, in effect, he improvised on the 
piano, in a burst of inspiration, a delightful melody, 
which he accompanied with charming chords on those 
absurd words. 

And Leconte de Lisle cried out, enchanted, " Non- 
sense verses are decidedly the best for music." 

Fine verses, being themselves divine music, stand in 
no need of any other. 

In this way Jundt flung about at random the most 
precious natural gifts. 

And yet he could never succeed in bringing to per- 
fection those qualities which would have made him 
famous as a painter. 

With more precision, more correctness in drawing, 
and, had it not been for that modest distrust in himself 
which made him rub out and begin over again twenty 
times the same picture, he would have been a great 

But, notwithstanding everything, what ravishing crea- 
tions sprang to life under his incorrect touch ! 

In his " Islets of the Rhine," what charming yellow 
reeds bend over the clear waters, parted by the fingers 
of shadowy and evanescent naiads, that gleam with sil- 
very lights ! 

And his tender Marguerite, who, when the uncertain 
light of dawn opens the petals of her little sisters of the 
field, braids her golden locks over the water of a spring 
in the hollow trunk of a tree, reviving a symbol which 
had seemed hopelessly hackneyed. 

And the white light of morning which glimmers over 
the tender spring verdure and the quivering mists, who, 
O sunny-haired friend — save the divine Corot — could 
better than thou have interpreted their intoxicating 
sweetness ! 

All this gayety concealed suffering, perhaps despair, 


not dreamed of by his most intimate friends, not even 
by his devoted brother Theodore Jundt, an engineer at 
Belfort, who, though more serious than Gustave, reminds 
us of him — physical pain, cruel disillusions, his patriotic 
anguish as an Alsatian, for he could never be consoled 
for his lost country. 

All his friends will remember the spiteful caricatures 
with which he covered a series of panels, on one of 
which was represented an imposing effigy made up of 
slices of bacon, black-pudding and sausages, as well as 
that panorama of Alsace, with which he terminated the 
sketch so fondly dreamed of ! 

No anguish can compare with that experienced by 
those wildly gay natures when misfortune overtakes 
them ! 

One morning Paris was shocked by the news of his 
tragic death, as it had before been shocked by the news 
of the death of Marchal, that other Alsatian and fellow- 
student of Jundt 


Other friends, venerable ones, attracted me also. 
I refer to the old masters who repose in the Louvre. 

Their calm and assured fame is beyond the reach of 
the vicissitudes to which ours is subject, and, in the 
midst of the preoccupations which excite and fatigue 
our nerves, it is well from time to time to contemplate 
them and to question them. 

I never cross the threshold of our museum without 
experiencing a reverential emotion. 

I know this museum almost by heart, and yet it 
offers at each new visit a fresh field of observation. 

The impressions of art are subject to so many subtle 


influences, that, according to what he has just seen or 
studied, the admiration of the artist is modified, if not 
in its intensity at least in its direction. 

On one day I am more affected by the naive fervor 
of Gothic art, on another by the pomp of the Renais- 
sance, or by the touching homeliness of the Dutch 
school. But there are certain masterpieces which, for 
me, are placed beyond the fluctuations of judgment or 
of feeling. 

I have made of these chosen masterpieces my bright- 
est constellation in the heaven of the ideal. 

I should place, perhaps, at their head, the Sistine 
Chapel and the divine marbles of Phidias, which, when 
I saw them in London, moved me to tears ; but these 
I have seen only once. 

The works which I can see often, and of which I 
can speak with more certainty, are the " Saint Anne " of 
Leonardo da Vinci, the " Pilgrims of Emmaiis " of 
Rembrandt, and the last picture of Poussin, "Apollo 
and Daphne," in the Louvre ; the little " Waxen Head " 
at Lille ; and the " Vocation of Saint Bavon " of Ru- 
bens, at Ghent. 

I do not think art has ever produced anything more 
touching than the head of the " Saint Anne " of Leo- 
nardo da Vinci. No artist has every joined more pro- 
found feeling with greater correctness of design. It is 
ideal sweetness expressed with ideal force. Nothing 
there is due to chance ; everything is predetermined, 
but each detail is rendered subordinate to the expres- 
sion of the whole in a half-tint more resplendent than 
crude light. It trembles and glows with the radiance of 
the soul. It is clothed with a divine and supernatural 
brightness. It is the transfiguration of matter ! 

I love this Leonardo with all the fervor of an artist's 


May not the adorable " Waxen Head " in the Muse- 
um of Lille, that young virgin, the wondrous work of 
an unknown hand, be by Leonardo also? There is 
nothing to be compared to the pensive innocence of 
this white lily ! How many times has the pure glance 
of her melancholy eyes come to haunt me in my soli- 
tude ! 

It is difficult to believe that, in these days, when 
travel is so easy, there could be in the superb cathedral 
of an important city an almost unknown masterpiece, in 
in my opinion the finest picture of one of the greatest 
painters. Yet so it is in the case of the "Vocation of 
Saint Bavon " of Rubens. 

And, what renders this obscurity still more extraor- 
dinary, is the fact that there is in a chapel of the same 
cathedral an extremely well-known work, the " Paschal 
Lamb " of Van Eyck. 

Clad in rich armor, and wearing a long purple man- 
tle which is held up behind by a page, Saint Bavon is 
represented kneeling, surrounded by his court, on a 
massive staircase which leads to the porch of a convent. 

Between the columns of this porch bishops in their 
episcopal robes of state incline themselves toward him, 
extending their hands to receive him. 

The lower part of the staircase is occupied by beg- 
gars, among whom attendants are distributing the pos- 
sessions of the saint. They look like a pack of hounds 
throwing themselves on the quarry. There are among 
them emaciated old men, boys in rags, and two superb 
beggar-women, of whom one, with uncovered bosom, 
discloses to view, as she rushes forward, two infants, 
whom she holds in her powerful arms. 

To the left, near the frame, two noble ladies, the 
most ideal creations of the painter, of a pure and ele- 
vated type of beauty, are looking with emotion at the 


saint who is making the sacrifice of all his earthly- 

All the figures in this composition are grouped with 
perfect skill and naturalness. Its coloring is incom- 
parably rich and sober. 

Here are none of those timid muscles which, in the 
shadows, look like raw flesh ; none of those crude blues 
and reds that we see in the " Virgin with the Parrot" 
and the " Lance-Thrust " ; none of the porcelain tints 
of the "Christ on the Straw" and the "Unbelief of 
Saint Thomas " ; nothing of the vulgarity of the fore- 
shortened "Dead Christ." Here all is life-like and 
natural, and beauty reigns supreme. 

The coloring of a slightly amber tint is of the same 
quality as that of another admirable though much less 
important masterpiece of the same artist ; I refer to the 
painting of Saint George, which adorns the tomb of 
the great genius of Antwerp, in the church of Saint 

There are in it the same warm and pearly flesh- 
tints, the same powerful harmonies in yellow. But, 
indeed, when Rubens paints with delicacy he has no 

As for the " Pilgrims of Emmaus " of Rembrandt, 
it is the goal of my pious pilgrimages whenever I can 
make them, and I never weary of contemplating it. 

By what miracle does this " Christ," which, accord- 
ing to conventional rules, is not beautiful, awaken in 
the mind the highest and holiest thoughts? Whence 
comes the irresistible charm breathed by this face 
crowned by its mild and mysterious halo ? As in the 
presence of Leonardo da Vinci, we here feel ourselves 
under the spell of a supernatural irradiation. 

To learn its secret, it would be necessary to read the 
soul of Rembrandt, 


For, however inexplicable may be the attraction of 
this work, we feel that it is the radiation of a pure 
thought ; it gives proof of the supremacy of human 
genius over the rest of the creation ; it confutes those 
materialists who would debase that genius to the level 
of the blind instinct of the brute. 

But if the chief fascination of this masterpiece, the 
inspiration which it breathes, escapes our limited meth- 
ods of analysis, what we can estimate in it is the superior 
harmony of the values and the tones, the pious attention 
of the attitudes, and the magic of the chiaroscuro. Rem- 
brandt has created nothing more softly intense. 

And, a consoling fact for those among us who are 
growing old, when we consider the work of the great 
masters, we find that their latest manner is their best. 

This is true of Michael Angelo, Rubens, Leonardo 
da Vinci, Rembrandt, Poussin, and many others. 

Contrariwise to what the Greeks used to say of their 
heroes, " Happy they who die young, and in full pos- 
session of their physical beauty ! " we may say, of artists 
especially, " Happy they who die old, in the plenitude 
of their mental faculties! " They alone reach that full 
maturity of the powers when, having mastered the 
technic of their art, and freed themselves from preju- 
dices and from vulgar passions, they see only the su- 
preme expression of things. There is no trace of effort 
in their work ; the means employed disappear, and the 
hand may tremble with impunity under the superior 
charm which it confers. 

For the young, new efforts, dangerous exaltations, 
dazzling triumohs, and resounding defeats, disillusions, 
prodigality, daring experiments, and the noisy trum- 
peting of new reputations ! For the old who have re- 
tained their vigor, the free and radiant flow of sublime 
inspirations concealing profound knowledge, the more 


profound the more it is concealed. For the old, serene 
visions freed from earthly trammels. 

I have just spoken of Poussin. Well, compare with 
the " Rape of the Sabines," and other pompous paint- 
ings of his youth, the " Grapes of the Promised Land," 
the " Episode of Ruth and Boaz," and, above all, the 
last and best of his pictures, " Apollo and Daphne," 
which he left unfinished, and in which his failing fingers 
were the interpreters of one of the highest visions of 

Oh, you who affirm that the ideal does not exist, 
how describe the celestial atmosphere which bathes this 
old man's dream, the august beauty of this epopceia, at 
once Olympian and pastoral, and the episodes which it 
unfolds ? 

Look at this picture, and say whether art has made 
much progress since it was painted. 

In the deep blue sky float soft pearl-gray clouds, 
charmingly rose-tinted, beautifully rounded in form, 
and pierced here and there by golden gleams, which 
gather, seeming charged with electricity, on the distant 
peak that, behind an azure lake, bounds the horizon. 

In the warm, humid atmosphere of this rich back- 
ground, majestic trees, rooted among sharply outlined 
rocks, spread their fan-like foliage. 

To the left, a nymph, enveloped in a yellow drapery, 
swings, half-reclining, among the branches; another 
nymph, crowned with oak-leaves, is seated at her feet, 
clasping with interlaced fingers, the branch of a tree. 

A little below Apollo is looking at Daphne, whose 
nude figure is seen surrounded by nymphs, also nude, 
on the other side of the composition. Near Apollo a 
little Cupid, bow and arrow in hand, is taking aim at 

Various figures are seated or recline in the fore- 


ground in attitudes of repose. A wide space affords 
rest to the eye in the midst of these groups, whose un- 
dulating lines lead the glance of the spectator to the 
left toward Apollo, and to the right toward Daphne. 

The background of the picture is occupied by shep- 
herds, dogs, and a herd of oxen, whose backs form a 
straight line, full of style. 

How intense, peaceful, warm, and tender is the 
whole composition ! 

A soft light gilds the distances and the nymph seated 
on the grass, while the rest of the picture is in a half- 
shadow of exquisite transparency. 

In this painting the contours and the colors, at once 
sublime and familiar, are so naturally graded, so enchant- 
ingly harmonized, that the eye, deceived by the charm, 
fancies it perceives in it a sort of palpitation, I might 
almost say a divine breathing ! This palpitation, this 
breathing, this supernatural life, produced by the perfect 
equilibrium of the parts forming a complete whole, is not 
this the infallible sign of a genuine masterpiece ? 


It will be seen how great an attraction Paris pos- 
sessed for me, since it brought me in frequent contact 
with friends such as those I have just described. 

Bat, if it is unwise to remain long away from Paris, 
it is not well, on the other hand, to live there constantly. 

Do not the continual opportunities offered by the 
great city for the interchange of ideas interfere with 
their complete assimilation ? Do not those constant con- 
versations, in which each one shines or seeks to shine, 
occasion a useless expenditure of energy ? 


Might not the ardor dissipated in often sterile words, 
if concentrated and employed in work, produce more 
serious results ? 

Thoughts, to prove fertile, require to be concentrated, 
and not scattered to the winds. Condensation increases 
their force a hundred-fold. 

The boulevard alone can develop that brilliant but 
superficial faculty which we call esprit, but the ambition 
of the artist should go further than this. Without the 
prudence of the fox, it may be said that esprit is danger- 
ous in art. 

I am of the opinion that historical painters would 
gain greatly by living occasionally in the country, in the 
midst of the primitive inhabitants. I think by doing so 
they would often obtain an insight into past ages, for, to 
my mind, in order to make past ages live upon the can- 
vas, something more is needed than to rummage among 
heaps of documents and sneeze among the dust of old 


Emerging from the whirlpool of Paris I experienced, 
every time I returned to Courrieres, the supreme delight 
of the intense peace of the country, and enjoyed the 
solitary walks in which I could again follow the changes 
of Nature, and study their causes in simple subjects, in 
which are more plainly manifested her great and im- 
mutable laws. 

At such times the thousand problems discussed in 
Paris with my fellow-artists returned to my mind. They 
presented themselves to my reason more clearly in this 
solitude, and I sought then to solve them. 

Perhaps I would have done better to follow my natu- 


ral bent, without any other care than that of seeking to 
attain the ideal I had formed, without vain longings or 
too exalted an ambition. 

This is what I had done, without suspecting it, when 
1 painted my first pictures at Courrieres; this is what I 
strive to do, less unconsciously, now. 

But how settle the account with one's conscience, 
exacted by a sense of responsibility ? 

I have always had a passion for the Beautiful. 

I have always believed that the aim of art was to 
realize the expression of the Beautiful. I believe in the 
Beautiful — I feel it, I see it ! 

If the man in me is often a pessimist, the artist, on 
the contrary, is pre-eminently an optimist. 

More than this, I affirm that life would seem to me 
absolutely miserable and contemptible if we had not 
continually before our eyes the enchanting splendors of 
the Beautiful. 

In affirming this, I speak of moral as well as physical 

But what is the Beautiful ? Where is it ? What are 
its attributes ? 

Reason is powerless to answer this question continu- 
ally propounded, and to which the response of Plato, 
vague though it be, is yet the best : 

u Love is the only light that can guide us in a region 
where all is mystery." 

One might add to the definition of Plato that the 
Beautiful is not only the spkfidor of the true, but also its 
intensity, and it is for this reason that it is to be met with 
even where the vulgar see only ugliness. 

If I did not fear to be still more vague than Plato, I 
should say, The Beautiful is the essence of Life. 

It is also the grand symphony of the World, which 
can be interpreted only by those who possess a profound 



knowledge of its laws, and of the relation between dis- 
cords and harmonies. 

All beings provided with eyes perceive the images 
of things ; only those who are artistically and poetically 
endowed see them, because they alone comprehend 
their harmonic sense in the universal concert. 

Hence their delight and their dissatisfaction with 
things concerning which the majority of people are ab- 
solutely indifferent; hence their contempt for purely 
imitative art, that art which considers things only for 
themselves, and seeks to deceive the eye by a patient 
and contemptible mechanical process. 

Art, then, has not for its end merely the imitation of 

But in what degree should Nature be imitated ? To 
what extent should the artist create? How should he 
create ? 

Is it not presumption on his part to think that he 
can create ? 

How many questions arise to trouble his judg- 
ment ! 

A painter may be interesting provided he has studied 
Nature sufficiently to avoid copying her expressionless 
aspects, but he will touch the feelings only in so far as 
he can interpret her intensities. 

How is the artist to learn to recognize the essential 
features of Nature which he is to depict, and the com- 
monplaces which he is to avoid ? 

He can only do this by elevating his soul by the con- 
templation of the beautiful spectacles which strike his 
imagination, and by lovingly interpreting them. 

For it is not enough to discern and portray the su- 
perficial character of things; it is necessary also — and 
this is the most important point — to interpret their 
meaning, their expression learned by putting our souls 


in communication with what I shall call the souls of in- 
animate objects. 

For everything in nature has a hidden, and, so to 
say, a moral life. 

This life is mysterious, but in nowise chimerical, and 
only those, whether poets or artists, who are penetrated 
deeply with it, have the power to touch the feelings. 

What is the sky to me if it does not give me the idea 
of infinity ? 

Looking at a twilight scene, it matters little that my 
eye should receive the impression of the view, if my 
spirit does not at once experience a feeling of repose, of 
tranquillity, and of peace. A bunch of flowers should, 
above all things, rejoice the eye by its freshness. 

The spirit of a subject should take precedence of 
the letter. 

Force, Elegance, Majesty, Sweetness, Splendor, 
Grace, Naivete, Abundance, Simplicity, Richness, Hu- 
mility — some one of these qualities, according to the 
genius of the painter and the nature of the subject, 
should strike the beholder, in every work, before he has 
had the time to take in the details of the scene repre- 

These are the aesthetic virtues. 

They are common to all the arts, which live only 
through them. The most skillful execution, the most 
accurate knowledge, can not supply their place. 

They are eternal, and pass through the caprices of 
fashion, without losing any of their sovereign power. 

They insure lasting fame, which grows with time. 

Just as many beauties as there are, just so many cor- 
responding defects are there which assume the appear- 
ance of the former, and, misleading the public, give rise 
to ephemeral fashions. 

At the side of Beauty is Prettiness ; of Grace and 


Elegance, Affectation ; of Naivete, Silliness ; of Force, 
Heaviness ; of Majesty, Pomp ; of Softness, Insipidity ; 
of Abundance, Prodigality; of Splendor, Tawdriness ; 
of Simplicity, Poverty. 

The public often allow themselves to be deceived by 
appearances, and do not easily distinguish the false coin 
from the true. The crowd, led astray at first, end by 
ranging themselves on the side of the acknowledged 
critics ; and as, after all, they never know why they do 
so, we see them going into ecstasies before masterpieces 
which, at the bottom of their hearts, they still think ugly. 

True art will always address itself only to a limited 

The great quality which constitutes the artist, and 
which is born with him, is, then, the love of the Beauti- 
ful ; that fire which thrills the soul, fertilizes it, and be- 
stows upon it that profound and almost unconscious 
perception which is its result, the light of feeling. 

Knowledge gives clearness, feeling surrounds this 
clearness with mystery, divines the Beyond, pierces the 
Infinite ; and it is for this reason that I have said in my 

verses : 

.... L'art est la clarte 
Supreme rayonnant au milieu du mystere.* 


All these questions, suggested by my studies, crossed 
my mind at one time or another ; and, in order to ter- 
minate this digression into the field of pure aesthetics, I 
will give here some pages copied from my note-books, 
written in 1865, and summing up the convictions on art 

* Theodore Rousseau et le Bucheron : Les Champs et la Mer. 



which I then entertained — convictions which I may say 
have changed but little since that time. 

Truth in art is the essence of visible truth, and this 
essence of truth is the Beautiful. 

The Beautiful is a mystery which can be interpreted 
only by another mystery — inspiration. 

For how, in truth, does the painter succeed in ex- 
pressing the Beautiful ? Is it by deliberately correcting 
the faults of the model who is posing for him ? No ; he 
could only make this correction by virtue of a system, 
and experience demonstrates that every system in art 
irrevocably leads to coldness, to death. 

Nature, then, is not to be corrected by making it 
conform to a conventional type. The artist must have 
the intention of rendering what he sees and conceives 
as he sees and conceives it. 

His exaltation of feeling will make him discern the 
line of expression, of beauty, which he will follow ; and 
unconsciously he will diminish or eliminate the insig- 
nificant or useless details which interfere with it. 

I have said "unconsciously," and I lay stress upon 
this point. If the artist is penetrated by his subject, he 
will see in reality, in the model that is posing for him, 
only those traits which adapt themselves to his thought. 

Besides, it is not when he reasons best that he does 
best. How many times does it happen that he does 
not perceive his success until afterward ! God created 
the world, and then saw that it was good. 

For when a work is completed it is easy to analyze 
it and to explain the means by which the effect pro- 
duced has been brought about. How many people 
fancy they have made a fine discovery, are eager to 
avail themselves of it, and find, themselves unable to 
profit by it ! 


Painters should not trouble themselves too much 
about execution. I mean by this that they should have 
in view the representation of a sincere observation of 
Nature, and shun, as they would the plague, the coquet- 
ries of the brush. Those whose aim it is to display upon 
canvas their skilfulness of touch can succeed in pleasing 
only fools. 

Oh, the insipid skill of a hand which is always in- 
fallible ! Oh, the delightful unskilfulness of a hand 
trembling with emotion ! 

Truly fine execution does not parade itself; it effaces 
itself humbly, to give place to the image it represents. 

O artists ! instruct yourselves, nourish your hearts, 
exalt your souls, extend your vision, and do not trouble 
yourselves about painting well. The more clearly you 
see into the secrets of Nature, the clearer and more skil- 
ful will be your touch ; the more powerfully you are 
thrilled by feeling, the more expressive it will be ! To 
see, to feel, to express — all this must take place simul- 
taneously, spontaneously. How could one expect a 
cold calculation to produce the touch which should 
give expression to your thought, follow it unceasingly 
and immediately in all its inflections, in all its move- 
ments ? 

The excellence of the method followed is also a 
quality which is to be analyzed after the work is com- 
pleted, in regard to which it is well to consult the mas- 
ters, because this study will enable you to penetrate 
more deeply into their spirit, but which must not be 
thought of while working. 

We know how one of our most gifted artists, De- 
camps, allowed himself to be hampered by the fruitless 
study of method, to the great detriment of his work. 

If, instead of confusing his touch by labored and 
premeditated painting, by useless rubbing out, by glairy 


varnishing, he had allowed it to follow his inspiration 
freely, how much greater he would have been ! 

Nothing can supply the place of spontaneity of 
touch, conveying, fresh and life-like, the direct expres- 
sion of the feeling 

How important it is to make good use of the mo- 
ments of inspiration ; and how often it happens that the 
execution becomes heavy in seeking after a superficial 
and impossible perfection ! 

This is because fatigue is a bad counselor, and the 
desire for " the better " is to be distrusted which 
springs from too long a contemplation of one's work. 

This touch, indeed, the direct expression of the 
feeling and the thought, must come at last, in order to 
avoid the necessity for retouching one's work, which 
would render it heavy, and deprive it of freshness and 

A young and inexperienced painter will thoughtless- 
ly dissipate in his sketch all the fire of his inspiration, 
and, when he wishes to complete his work, he will find 
before him an impassable gulf. The more beautiful 
his sketch, the heavier and more labored will be every 
touch that he adds to it ; and every effort which he 
makes to finish it will seem to remove it still further 
from the desired end. 

The experienced artist, on the contrary, will first fix, 
in a life-like sketch, the emotion he wishes to interpret ; 
then taking his canvas, he will fill in the details without 
haste, and will prepare all the materials of which he will 
have need. He will make all the necessary studies, 
and will outline the masses of his painting with care. 

He will know how to restrain the ardor of his enthu- 
siasm, always ready to carry him away, in order that his 
sketch, made with premeditation, may in no way inter- 
fere with the work which is to follow. 

296 the life of an artist. 

He knows that it is necessary to lay the foundations 
of his work in this way, in order to give greater firmness 
to the forms, greater power and solidity to the tones, 
as well as to aid in the distribution of the effects ; but 
he will do it in such a way — there being nothing to 
distract his attention — as will leave a free field to spon- 
taneity of feeling, so that the touch which is to inter- 
pret it may be final. 

It is necessary that everything in this sketch, the 
general outlines, proportions, and relative values, be 
rigorously predetermined. Every detail, as well as every 
charm of color, must be omitted. 

This sketch must have, besides, contrasts sufficiently 
strong, accents sufficiently pronounced, to prevent the 
artist from being led into weakness of execution, when 
he shall begin his picture. 

It must not be painted in the final tone, for nothing 
renders a painting so heavy as to place two layers of 
the same color one over the other. 

Once the sketch is well laid in, and perfectly dry, 
let the painter attack his work boldly, and let every 
touch of his brush be the consequence of the feeling 
which animates him, and never made with the aim of 
producing a fine work. 

The precept, " Know thyself," may be addressed 
with peculiar aptness to the painter. It is of the ut- 
most importance that he should discover in what his 
originality consists. This is not easy, for we gen- 
erally attach special importance to the qualities which 
Heaven has denied us. Let the artist shun this 
temptation, which would turn him aside from his true 

If his nature, for instance, is energetic and robust, 
and he wishes to paint in a sweet and tender style, he 



will lose his natural qualities without acquiring those 
which he seeks to attain. 

Figure to yourself Gericauft influenced by Prudhon ! 

It must not be deduced from this that an artist 
would do wrong to draw inspiration from the various 
feelings which attract him ; this remark applies to the 
character which be is best fitted to give his painting — to 
style, in a word. 

The style is the man. Let us not forget this old 

The great masters will teach us to see clearly, will 
elevate our souls, and nourish our hearts, but let us 
imitate in them only their ardent study of life and all 
its manifestations. 

If we seek to acquire the style of another, we re- 
nounce the individual style which we might have ac- 
quired. Let us keep to that which we like, that which 
we feel. 

Let us be severe toward ourselves ; but, when we are 
conscious of a defect in ourselves, let us seek to correct 
it only in so far as this may be done without injury to 
some precious quality : we were hard, but expressive ; 
we may become insipid and weak. 

Enlightened art critics will give us the best possible 
counsels, which we should accept with gratitude, but 
which we must follow with extreme precaution. That 
which they have called a defect is perhaps an energetic 
mode of expression peculiar to us ; to lose it, therefore, 
would be to lessen our worth. 

Nothing is more insipid than an expressionless per- 
fection. A touch of madness is better than death. 

The great masters have always sought to preserve 
their originality. They were naturally influenced in the 
beginning by their teachers, and their first works show 
traces of this influence ; but, once acquired, their man- 



ner has continued entirely their own, and the successive 
variations to be observed in it are only the consequence 
of the changes which had taken place in themselves. 

This manner reveals itself all at once from the very 
first essays. Education, the counsels of the teacher, the 
influence of fellow-students, and other causes, may turn 
the artist from it for a time. But, if he be really gifted, 
he will infallibly come back to it. His self-assertion 
will be at first excessive, for he will push forward 
toward the desired goal with that unreflecting ardor 
which gives to youth its rash and exclusive ignorance. 
His defects will be plainly perceptible, but he will at- 
tract irresistibly. Such is the power of dawning genius. 

Happy period of unconscious inspiration and sudden 
flashes of genius ! 

But soon, the first surprise past, the public and the 
artist himself, if he be not blinded by the incense of 
flattery, will discover that the praise accorded to the 
work is not based upon a solid foundation. 

The artist becomes restless. Then follows a period 
of doubt, of painful effort, and of discouragement. 

Timidity succeeds to the first freedom of manner. 

Burning to acquire what he lacks, the painter loses 
for a time that which he possessed 

He depreciates his native qualities ; and in this con- 
sists the danger. In reaching after the shadow he may 
lose the substance. He grows tired and discouraged. 
He strives after singular or subtle effects, strange novel- 
ties — in a word, he seeks the impossible. 

His painting, worked up to excess, becomes feeble 
and expressionless, labored and heavy. 

Even his early successes add to his despondency, 
since they have led only to this. Formerly his style was 
hard and coarse, it is true ; but was not this better than 
the impotence in which he now languishes ? 



His efforts, however, are less futile than he imagines. 
They will prove useful to him, if only as experi- 

One day he sees again one of his early paintings, 
long forgotten, and which strikes him as if it were the 
work of another painter. True, it is full of defects into 
which he would not now fall, but it exists, it lives ! 
It has a real power, an inexplicable but irresistible 

" And yet I was born a painter ! " he says. " Whence 
comes it, then, that I exhaust myself now in futile at- 
tempts, when formerly I could awaken emotion with so 
little effort ? " 

Then his eyes are opened. He sees clearly into the 
depths of his own nature. He has only to dare ; he will 
dare. He will go straight forward, shaking off the bor- 
rowed burden which impedes his progress. 

An enthusiasm which will not prove fruitless again 
takes possession of him during his sleepless vigils. His 
sight is restored to him , his eyes see clearly! 

The voluptuous ardor, the feverish thrills which are 
produced by the consciousness of the creative power, 
have chased away the restless suffering which paralyzed 
his imagination. He is astonished at the spirit he dis- 
plays, at the expression and the animation which forms 
and colors assume under his brush. 

He is himself once more. What do I say? Himself, 
but greater, broader, purer, simpler than before ! 

With the faults of his youth have disappeared also, it 
is true, some regrettable charms, but his finer qualities 
have gained singularly in power. 

The power which freedom and broadness of view 
confer, such is the supreme quality which distinguishes 
the final manner of the true masters. 

It is feeling directed by science. It is science 


warmed by feeling, force self-contained and self-con- 

What we call a study is a fragment, a note, an indi- 
cation, and can never constitute a whole. The objects 
are there for their own sakes, without any correla- 
tion which would make them form part of a general 

A picture, on the contrary, should be a harmonious 
blending of different elements, all conducing to the 
same end. 

In a really fine composition no change can be made, 
nothing can be added or taken away, without disturbing 
the harmony of the whole. Even the most insignificant 
of its details must be in its own proper place and not 
elsewhere. There should, indeed, be nothing insignifi- 
cant in it. Everything should conduce to render more 
expressive the sentiment of the subject. 

A detail which should not be associated with the 
leading idea would tend to destroy the feeling of the 

Every subject requires an arrangement, an effect, an 
execution peculiar to itself ; and no general rules can be 
laid down for the composition of a picture. 

The finest composition is not that which displays the 
most elegant lines, but that which expresses most clearly 
the spirit of the subject. No detail can be exempt from 
the logic imposed by the central idea of the work. 

The same thing is true of color. 

The most ravishing caprices of the palette would be 
most out of place in a composition which requires sober 
coloring, and vice versa. 

The sovereign law which should govern every com- 
position is unity. The central idea must reveal itself 
clearly, always, and instantaneously, whatever may be 



the number and importance of the subordinate ideas 
which accompany it. 

Painters without experience often weaken the effect 
they wish to produce by a prodigality which multiplies 
uselessly the figures and the accessories of a picture. 

It will not be long before they learn that, the greater 
the conciseness and simplicity with which a thought is 
interpreted, the more it gains in expressive force. 

The public in general believe that a composition 
containing a hundred figures denotes more imagination 
than a composition containing only ten, but it is often 
the reverse of this which is true. 

In a good composition the means employed, the 
springs, so to say, disappear to let the action and the 
sentiment of the scene expressed speak for them- 

Supreme skill does not reveal itself ; it knows how to 
conceal itself under the form of extreme simplicity. 

Whatever the realists may say, there are few scenes 
in nature which can be copied exactly as they are. 

The most horrible catastrophes often take place 
among surroundings which have nothing sinister in 
them. A joyous sunbeam may light up the death agony 
of a man dying of the plague. I know how art may 
avail itself of a contrast like this, but how often does a 
tragedy occur under circumstances seemingly the most 
commonplace ! 

I remember I was turning the corner of a street one 
day in Antwerp, when I perceived, a few steps away, a 
crowd of people gathered around some object which 
was hidden from my view. 

I thought at first that they had been attracted there 
merely by curiosity, and the idea of a tragedy having 
taken place never occurred to my mind. 

Drawing nearer, I saw lying on the ground before 



me, apparently lifeless, a workman who had fallen from 
a ladder and crushed his skull against the pavement. 

I was vividly impressed by the brutal realism of the 
occurrence itself, but not at all by the circumstances 
under which it had taken place. 

Art, happily not having at its disposal this means of 
stirring the emotions, must do so by more striking meth- 
ods than would be strictly correct according to true feel- 
ing and the logic of the imagination. 

When I was close to the dying man I recognized ex- 
pressions and details which my reason told me were 
characteristic of his condition, but which I had never 
before seen ; this recognition, however, was not imme- 
diate, and was at first confused. 

It is the part of the artist to seize these elements, to 
group them together, or to separate them, as may be 
necessary, in order to bring out clearly the general idea. 

Those realists who reject arrangement, and refuse to 
admit the necessity of selection even, deny the existence 
of art. 

They may laugh at the rustic who said to Rousseau 
as he was painting an oak, " Why are you making that 
tree, when it is already made ? " 

It is none the less evident, however, that if the land- 
scape-painter had in view only the exact reproduction 
of the oak, the remark of the peasant would have been 
perfectly just. 

What Rousseau aimed at, then, was an individual in- 
terpretation which should be superior to the reality. 

He did not paint the tree itself, but the expression 
which he lent it, the impression he received from it, and 
this perhaps unconsciously and impelled by his passion 
for the Beautiful, thinking all the time that he was mak- 
ing an exact copy of nature. 

There are certain pictures which please at first, but 



when they are out of sight leave only a faint impression 
on the mind ; there are others, on the contrary, which 
leave an impression on the mind that grows stronger 
with time, engraves itself upon the memory, and is never 
again effaced from it. 

One often finds it difficult to estimate the exact de- 
gree of merit possessed by a work while one is looking 
at it ; but later, when the impression received from it 
shall have settled, so to say, and become classified, it 
will be easy to discern which are its really powerful 
qualities, and which are those that have only a super- 
ficial interest. 

The effect a picture produces on the memory is the 
counter-proof of its direct effect. 

In a painting, parts which are beautiful in themselves 
may constitute a bad whole. 

To say of any work of art that it has beauties is to 
condemn it. This thought does not occur to one in 
contemplating a masterpiece. 

If an accessory in a picture strikes the eye, so much 
the worse ! A defect which did not attract the atten- 
tion would be better. 

When an artist, in exhibiting his picture, perceives 
that his visitors are struck by the beauty of a subordi- 
nate part, let him not hesitate for an instant to sacri- 
fice it. 

To close these extracts, taken from the note-books 
in which I recorded my thoughts on art in former years, 
I will give the conclusions I have arrived at : 

The true is not material reality only. 

Spirit should govern matter. 

The terrestrial creation is made for the service of 
man, who is its king. 

We all have thoughts, feelings, and passions ; the 


artist should not be satisfied to be the only one to play 
the passive part of a mirror. 


I am now nearing the end of the task I imposed upon 
myself in writing these memoirs. 

When I say the task I imposed upon myself, I do not 
mean to imply that this task has been, in the main, a 
painful one. 

But, if it has for the most part afforded me happi- 
ness, on the other hand I have had to overcome at 
times a natural reluctance to recall, in retracing the 
past, sorrows which sadden the lives of even the hap- 
piest men. 

Yet even sorrow itself, viewed from a distance, is not 
without a certain melancholy charm. 

It is from this distance that I would contemplate the 
sorrows of past years ; at this distance, when the shreds 
of their fleece, left by the frightened flock upon the 
brambles, are undistinguishable from the blossoms of 
the heather. 

I wish to preserve this illusion. 

This chapter will be in this work like those little 
cemeteries reposing on the outskirts of villages, whose 
horror is concealed under a network of flowery verdure. 

In bringing here the beloved beings who have had a 
part in these memoirs, I shall yield myself up not to 
anguish but to pious emotion. 

It is in our hearts that we cherish the venerated 
memory of those we have loved and lost. 

Their mortal part, committed to earth, passes into 
the grass and the flowers with which we adorn their 



graves, and under this form we still love it with that 
vague sentiment of universal brotherhood which unites 
all nature. 

But the soul is not there ! 

This has gone to mingle with the supernatural world, 
to which it aspired even here below — the dreamed-of 
Ideal ! It sees the promised light. 

And it has departed, leaving its memory in our hearts 
living and fresh as if it had not left us. 

The sight of the grave, with all its afflicting sugges- 
tions, could add nothing to the intensity of this memory. 

The chrysalis dries up pitiably on the tree to which 
its silken cocoon still remains attached — the dark and 
narrow tomb whence the splendid butterfly has taken 
flight toward the sun, as souls take flight toward happier 

The tomb of the worm was the cradle of the but- 

Who does not feel, in the depths of his conscious- 
ness, that the soul has nothing in common with the 
darkness of the sepulchre? 

Who can understand the laws which govern the in- 
visible realms ? 

May we not hope for all things ? 

We have long since seen depart for those regions of 
rest, my little sister, my mother, my grandmother, and 
my father. 

And now, in 1862, on St. Nicholas' Day, just as my 
wife was preparing the gay bonbons of the season 
which were to give Virginie so much delight (we all 
know with what joyful enthusiasm mothers set about 
these tasks), the telegraph brought us, without warning, 
the news of the death of Felix de Vigne. Rheumatism 
of the heart had carried him off, after an illness of a few 
days. I had thought, from a reassuring letter I had re- 


ceived, and which I had not shown to Elodie, that his 
malady was nothing more than a slight indisposition. 

We have seen that he was making progress in his 
art. One of his latest pictures, " Sunday Morning in 
the Middle Ages," occupies a good place in the museum 
at Brussels. He was a Chevalier of Leopold, and on 
the day of his death his appointment to the post of 
Director of the Academy of Louvain arrived. 

In 1866 we lost our little angel Louis, the son of my 
brother Louis, at the age of seven. 

And, in 1867, thou, our beloved uncle and second 
father, didst in thy turn leave us ! 

Notwithstanding his sixty-nine years his health had 
appeared excellent, when he suddenly fell a victim to an 
unforeseen disease. It may be said of him that he had 
no old age, so full of enthusiasm was he still for the 
good and the beautiful. 

It is needless for me to say how greatly he was re- 
gretted, even by many of those whose opinions he had 

He had transmitted his own noble sentiments to my 
niece Julie, whose education he had directed, with the 
intention, as he said, of " making a woman of her." 

He sought to cultivate in her heroism of soul. The 
poor child, who was of a highly-strung temperament, had 
need, rather, of a preceptor who should have taught her 
to moderate her stoical ardor. 

When a child she had burned herself with a red-hot 
iron, in order to accustom herself to pain. 

She read Plutarch, Lamartine, and Leconte de Lisle, 
with delight. 

She had a passion for martyrs. She cherished a de- 
votion to the memory of Andre Ch£nier that bordered 
on love. 

Physically she resembled Charlotte Corday. 



She shared every pang suffered by her country ! 
Poor blighted flower, she soon languished under our 
cold sky. 

They took her to the south — to the land where the 
orange-tree blooms. 

The warm sunshine revived her for a time ; they 
thought her saved. 

She believed she was well, and ran about one day 
imprudently on the beach of Antibes, when a sea-breeze 
was blowing. There it was that she suggested to our 
friend, the delightful poet, Paul Arene, one of his most 
charming poems — " Au Bord de la Mer " — of which I 
shall quote a few stanzas : 

" Un matin je revait de Grece 

Pres de la mer, quand sur le bord, 
Passerent, de Tor dans leur tresse, 
Deux mignonnes enfants du Nord. 

Vois la-bas fre'mir a la brise 

Le rire innombrable des flots, 
Vois cette ecume qui se brise 

Aux pointes blanches des Slots. 

" C'est fete en Mediterranee." 

Alas ! six months later the Mediterranean was no 
longer en fete. 

There are days when its restless, rapid waves beat 
against the shore with the lugubrious sound of a knell ! 


In 1865, after I had finished the "Day's Work 
Done," I was again seized with the desire to travel, and 
I set out for Brittany. 



I was profoundly struck by Finistere, under all its 
aspects, maritime, rural, and religious. 

The dreary moors, the granite crosses of the Calva- 
ries * erected at the solitary cross-roads, expressing the 
rude fervor of the inhabitants ; the deep, dark paths 
where neither the light from the zenith, nor the sun- 
beams sifted through the leafy roof overhead sufficed to 
dispel the eternal gloom in which innumerable roots 
twisted and interlaced themselves, like knots of vipers ; 
the wan light of the crepuscule and of cloudy days that 
cast a leaden hue, like a gray tan, over the thin faces of 
the peasants with their fierce eyes and their long, thick 
hair, falling down their backs, over their stooped shoul- 
ders ; the women that looked like pictures of the Virgin, 
with their mitre-shaped head-dresses, their ruffs, out of 
which rose their slender, curved necks, and their cotton 
petticoats trimmed with gold or silver braid — this monas- 
tic rusticity, this mystic wildness, evoked in my mind 
confused and far-off recollections, more remote than any 
I retained of my native Artois. 

And I felt that I was indeed a descendant of the 

These were the thoughts that crossed my mind when 
we came in full view of the square of Chateaulin, where 
a fair, crowded with people from the neighboring vil- 
lages, was being held. At sight of the various costumes 
— brown, black, yellow, red, and blue — our little Vir- 
ginie cried, " O mamma, the Carnival ! " 

We were, then, at Chateaulin, where we had just ar- 
rived by boat from Brest, on our way to Douarnenez. 

We hired a rickety vehicle, a sort of cabriolet-carri- 
ole, with a glazed window, where we were completely 
protected from the rain which fell unceasingly. 

* In Catholic countries, a hill with a chapel or cross on the top. 



We soon entered the moors covered with pink heather 
and wrapped in vapor far as the eye could reach, a 
gloomy and desolate scene viewed through the rain that 
beat against the window-panes which rattled in their 
frames, and that was now beginning to make its way 
through the crevices. 

Our little Virginie, in harmony with the weather, 
burst into a torrent of tears, and the only way in which 
I could succeed in pacifying her was by gathering 
bunches of broom and fox-glove for her. 

In this way we passed through Kerghoat, celebrated 
for its Pardon, and through Locronan and Kerglass, two 
villages full of individuality, each containing a fine 

These granite monuments, their inner walls moss- 
grown from the dampness, symbolize well the somber 
character of the faith of these people. 

The Breton is, by nature, artistic. 

In Brittany, more frequently than elsewhere, does 
the traveler meet, even in the most solitary hamlets, those 
rudely carved shapeless stones that exercise so mysteri- 
ous a fascination over the beholder. 

They may be monstrous, but they are neither vulgar 
nor ridiculous ; their dreamy ugliness has a somber and 
even a menacing air. 

Thrilling with the ardor of mystic visions it was that 
the obscure artists of an earlier age gave with unskilful 
touch to their works a power of expression that is sel- 
dom the result of polished art. 

And nothing could be more in harmony with these 
desert heaths than those granite monuments of art. 

Douarnenez, whose women and whose beach I had 
heard so highly extolled, impressed me but little at first. 

At Douarnenez one misses the sunshine. 

The shores of the bay, vaguely defined in the soft, 



heavy, bluish mists, had an indescribably chilling 

And then this fog, slowly but surely inhaled, had 
damped the ardor of my enthusiasm. The women looked 
awkward in their Sunday finery. The men, with red- 
dish-brown complexions and bluish-black costumes, 
swarmed in the streets, many of them drunk, or stood 
in groups around the doors of the taverns. Under the 
leaden sky all this was intensely depressing. 

We alighted from our carriole at the Hdtel du 
Commerce, where we found Edouard Leconte, a land- 
scape painter full of promise, who died at thirty ; our 
charming poet Andre Theuriet, and Emanuel Lansyer, 
whose skilful pencil was the first to interpret Douar- 

But how different everything looked the next day 
when, after winding our way through a network of fetid 
streets permeated with a nauseating odor of sardines, 
we suddenly found ourselves in sight of the bay that 
stretched before us in its dazzling beauty ! 

It looked like an immense cup, carved by some Greek 
giant for the use of the gods. 

Brown cliffs, streaked with white and pink ; black 
cliffs, veined with gold ; creeks, capes, shores — wound 
away far as the eye could reach, inexpressibly graceful 
in outline and harmonious in color. 

In the background, the heath-clad hills of the 
Menez C'hom, pink like the peach-blossom, rose in the 
limpid atmosphere. 

And along the beach fringed with foam stretched 
somber woods and golden harvests toward Locronan 
seated on its graceful mountain-slope, its beautiful 
church standing sharply out against the sky. 

To the left were Cape La Chevre with its bold but- 
tresses, peaked cliffs, and lace-like stone-work, and 



Point L'Heide, at whose feet the unresting ocean dash- 
es ceaselessly. 

In its bed of tawny sand the sea boiled — a sea of 
sapphires and amethysts, through which flashed here 
and there a dazzling gleam of white foam, covered 
with a thousand barks, whose brown and red sails 
flapped in the wind. 

From precipitous granite walls, constantly exuding 
moisture, flashing in the sunshine and clouding in the 
shade, innumerable springs gushed forth and flowed 
sparkling down over the sand where they wound like 
moire ribbons, so clear and transparent as to be almost 
invisible, then disappeared, losing themselves in the 
sea, leaving behind them pools, motionless mirrors re- 
flecting the sky and the brown rocks that framed them 

Occasionally a wave would dash with force against 
the rocks covered with sea-weed, and hurry then swiftly 
back to the sea, carrying with it the pebbles of the 
shingly beach. 

Around the quiet pools, like flights of swallows, 
here strongly defined in the full sunshine, there half- 
veiled by the clouds of dashing spray, moved groups of 
washer-women, svelte and tall, their heads covered by 
the white coiffe of Douarnenez, tightly drawn in on the 
top of the head, and with lappets like pointed wings 
turned up at the back, leaving the neck bare. 

The population is maritime, and of various types and 

There are here faces with straight profiles, the fore- 
head and chin prominent, the lips thick, the jaws square 
and strong, the eyes blue and with well-opened lids, 
the arch of the brow wide, prolonging the eyebrows to the 
temples — a Gallo-Roman type, dear to Michael Angelo. 
There is, too, the gazelle-like type, with flexible neck, 


that recalls the desert, oblique eyes, the pupils spark- 
ling like black diamonds set in brilliant white enamel, 
delicate and sharply chiseled features and an olive- 
bronze complexion. 

The one brings to the mind the dolmens of Celtic 
forests, the other the harems of the East. 

Here are none of the vanities of dress ; the garments 
are thrown on hap-hazard — petticoats, once black, now 
rusty with use ; blue petticoats, discolored with the sea- 
air, following in an unbroken line the outlines of the 
form, or gathered up in front and fastened back behind, 
revealing the graceful outlines of the legs ; shawls, 
darned, patched, and ragged, swaying with every move- 
ment of the form — now thrown over the shoulders, like 
wings, now falling in graceful folds, swelling out and 
blowing about at the caprice of the breeze, or with the 
movements of the wearer. 

Here and there young girls bent gracefully over the 
water, the head slightly raised, the bare arms extended 
as they wrung the linen, or rising and falling with the 
blows of the bats that clacked swiftly to the ceaseless 
accompaniment of the dashing of the waves. 

Then there were groups of children, in rags of every 
color, tumbling about, and rolling over one another ; 
little half-naked fisher-boys, agile as monkeys ; little girls 
wearing their mothers' old caps hind-side foremost ; 
round heads covered with red, curly hair, with ruddy 
faces that looked at you with glorious eyes and gaping 

Finally, in the midst of this scene of life, light, and 
clouds of humid dust, were to be seen more quiet 
figures — a tall girl standing in the sunshine, her weight 
resting on her hip, her face turned toward the sea, and 
lazily twisting her body and her neck, against which 
the breeze flapped the lappets of her cap; while farther 


away gloomy-looking old women, like mummies, sitting 
bolt upright against the rock, in which they almost 
seemed to be incrusted, spun their flax like the Parcse ; 
and grave matrons passed and repassed ceaselessly, with 
erect head and straight neck, and firm and slow step, 
their hands on their hips, their eyes cast down, their 
jugs firmly balanced on their heads. 

You who visit this coast — Poulmarch — after me, may 
find there types of ugliness. As for me, I saw none. 

I expended my energy in profitless admiration of it. 

It made me fall ill. 

I made my studio there. I filled my note-books 
with sketches of it. 

But I would have liked to paint everything at once 
— the people, the rocks, the sea, the sky, the back- 

What should I give up, and why give up anything? 

And I began to plan, to turn over, to mix up a hun- 
dred different compositions, always hoping to put in 
everything, never succeeding, and ready to begin over 
again the next day. 

I lost my sleep on account of it, and, if I sometimes 
dropped asleep from fatigue, I continued to paint and 
design in my dream ; and I again saw those wonders, 
whirling before me in greater confusion than ever, and 
I thought that I had grasped at last that sorcerer of the 

For was he not indeed a sorcerer, this Proteus, who 
changed his form and color every day ; now, with blurred 
and softened outlines, looming gigantic through the fog, 
now diminishing in size and permitting the eye to dis- 
tinguish his adornments of lace-like arabesques ; at 
times dashing himself, white with anger, against the im- 
passive rocks covered with yellow sea-weed, at times, 
calm as a mirror, reflecting the sky with its white clouds, 



broken by the shadows of the vessels ; at times send- 
ing forth dazzling lights, that flashed along the sapphire 
and emerald waves to kindle furnace-like flames in the 
saffron atmosphere, and then fade into the leaden gray 
of night! 

At last, when I had sketched my composition (and 
I may say that I did not choose the best among those I 
had planned), I began the picture of the ** Washer-women 
of the Rocks of Finistere." 

As usual, the sketch had been made with perfect 
ease, and I thought that the picture was going to paint 

The principal group was in the sun-flecked shadow, 
while sunshine flooded the background. Oh, the back- 
ground ! It was there that I had thought the chief 
beauty of my picture was to lie ; and, leaving my figures 
in outline, I spent all my energies in working at the 
distances, not reflecting that their effect must depend 
on the firmness and the finish of the figures. 

But I put off touching these figures to the last, 
working desperately at the grottoes, the beach, and the 
villages lising one above the other on the shore, and 
which were to shimmer so poetically in the sunshine. 

It was a Penelope's web. I found it impossible to 
rid myself of the fixed idea that always brought me 
back to the same parts of my composition, which I 
worked up, rubbed out, scratched out, and outlined 
again in vain. 

My nerves became disordered. At times it seemed 
as if my brain would burst, but I did not give up my 
task. I would lie down upon the ground and wait 
until the crisis had passed. Then I would resume my 
work, exclaiming to myself, " I will accomplish it, or 
die in the attempt ! " 

Finally, I was obliged to put aside this picture for 



another year. It had produced a buzzing in the ears 
which rendered me deaf, and other nervous disturb- 
ances which at times made work impossible to me. 

Decidedly this bay set at naught the pencil and the 
brush of the artist. Its problem was the Infinite. 


I returned to the peasants with whom I had been 
so much struck at Chateaulin. 

I saw them again on the following Sunday morning 
at Ploare. 

Ploare is a village of some importance, situated on 
the hill between Douarnenez and Quimper. 

The scenery here is superb — woods of tall pines and 
beeches, where squirrels leap from branch to branch ; 
gnarled oaks ; chestnuts, some of them of gigantic size ; 
white poplars and quince-trees; here and there a rude 
granite farm-house, with thatched roof, surrounded by 
its dung-heap ; then moors covered with pink heather, 
or golden gorse ; a smiling sylvan glen, its little stream- 
let, and its mill hidden in the flowery brush ; farther 
on, meadows, fields of rye, and snowy buckwheat ; mag- 
nificent alleys, always shady, traversed by herds of 
small cows and majestic swine, and along which long 
lines of peasants wind picturesquely on market-days. 

The church, situated at the entrance to the village, 
faces Douarnenez, to which it appears to belong. It is 
of Gothic architecture, and in the genuine Breton style, 
with its low porch, its slender tower, through which the 
light is seen, its beautiful foliage, and its fantastic gar- 
goyles. Its gray granite walls are stained with patches 
of white, green, and yellow lichens. 

3 i6 


Around the church, in its low-walled inclosure 
shaded by large, leafy elms, are grouped picturesquely 
the houses of the village that stand out in bold relief 
against the sea, which in the distance seems to rise 
above the level of the streets. 

Fisher-folk and the peasants of the neighboring 
villages attend mass here. 

Although large, the church is too small for its pur- 
pose. The faithful for whom it has no room kneel 
under the porch, under the trees, and along the sacred 
walls, against which fanatics stretch out their arms in 
the form of a cross, like bas reliefs, while others pros- 
trate themselves, touching the stone with their fore- 
heads, their rosaries in their hands, their features hidden 
among the masses of their straggling locks. The less 
devout sit on the wall of the inclosure. 

At the entrance a blind man kneels in the street, 
bending forward, his head raised, his sightless eyes 
wide open, leaning on his stick with one hand and 
holding out his worn felt hat, in a supplicating attitude, 
with the other. He is pathetically beautiful with his 
long black locks floating over his rags of coarse gray 

In a powerful voice, now with vehemence, now in 
droning accents, he hurries or retards his song with 
fanatic inflections that seem to have come down from 
long past ages. 

It brought before my mind the beggars who clam- 
ored and stretched out their arms toward Christ on the 
borders of the Dead Sea. 

Here, too, as in the time of Christ, dogs crouched 
and venders encumbered with their wares the entrance 
and the porch. 

In the middle of the inclosure, where we are seated, 
the faithful sleep stretched on the grass, with their 



hats for pillows ; they are sleeping away their too 
early potations without attracting the slightest atten- 

For here both gossip and ridicule are unknown. 

A drunken peasant on his knees, his rosary between 
his fingers, is praying with great fervor ; but his heavy 
head falls first on one side and then on the other, and 
sleep threatens to get the better of his devotion. He 
ends by resting his head on the shoulder of his neigh- 
bor, who is not at all disturbed in his devotions thereby. 
But there comes a moment in which the ceremony re- 
quires that they shall rise. The pious drunkard, losing 
his support, tumbles on his back, with his feet in the 
air. He continues his prayer without releasing his hold 
on the beads of his rosary. 

No one is surprised. They raise him, and set him 
again on his knees. He continues to mumble his pater, 
and no one has even smiled. 

Such are these simple believers ! 

If the men among the sea-faring part of the popula- 
tion are less handsome than the peasants, the peasant 
women, on the other hand, are far from being less grace- 
ful than the fisher-women. 

Many of the women of the land are ugly, heavy, and 
ill-shaped ; I will not speak of those who are only com- 

Poverty and neglect of hygienic laws have here given 
rise to many deformities, some of them extraordinarily 

I have seen here several sisters who actually made 
one think of the beasts of the Apocalypse, whose fright- 
ful and monstrous appearance possessed such a horrible 
fascination that I could not remove my eyes from them. 
They exercised over me a sort of spell ; grotesque faces 
in which, incredible as it may seem, were to be recog- 


nized certain distinctive features which constitute the 
beauty of their race ! 

Perhaps gentle souls were exiled in these hideous 
forms ! 

And I thought of " Beauty and the Beast," a story 
that had made me shed many tears in my childhood. 

The recollection of those forms and faces still dis- 
turbs me. 

But there are also to be found among the peasantry 
women superbly beautiful, with rounded contours and 
fresh complexions, in contrast with interesting and de- 
vout types of stunted ugliness, such as the painters of 
the middle ages loved to depict. 

Pallid, pathetic, unhealthy natures, resembling those 
unnatural flowers that grow in caves, and turn their droop- 
ing forms toward the opening where the sunshine enters. 

They have the appealing, languid air of those flow- 
ers, the same aspirations toward the light; pallid vir- 
gins, consumed by a hidden flame, in whose waxen faces 
the eyes burn like tapers. 

On their pure foreheads the band of red cloth seems 
to bleed like a wound, while the pink strings fall down 
the slender neck emerging from the ruffle that sur- 
rounds it, from the heavy mitre-shaped head-dress dot- 
ted with blue and gold spangles softened by the misty 
whiteness of embroidered tulle. 

Then, missal in hand, there were rich farmers' wives, 
robust and florid, with equally high head-dresses adorned 
with lace through which sparkled metallic spangles, with 
broad faces and high cheek-bones, resembling those vir- 
gins carved and painted by the peasants, dressed in em- 
broidered cloth of gold with flounced and embroidered 
aprons of shot silk, and heavy black petticoats trimmed 
with as many rows of silver braid as they had livres for 
their dowry. 


And in the midst of these groups I listened absently 
to the sound of the mass, my mind filled with ravishing 
dreams, and I fancied I saw rise before me scenes of 
long-vanished ages. 

The strains of the organ came from the church, 
floating in mystic harmonies among the branches of the 
elms, and seeming to animate everything, even to the 
very stones, with a supernatural life. And I fancied the 
saints in the porch and the gargoyles of the cornices, 
with their grotesque heads, breathed as if under the 
spell of a sorcerer, while the sisters resembling the 
beasts of the Apocalypse, prostrated themselves in the 
grass below. 

And I half expected to see the Galilean come and 
drive away the venders and the dogs who encumbered 
the porch, and by the touch of his divine fingers restore 
sight to the poor blind man whose droning accents 
reached us from the road. 


But it is at the Pardons that one must see this popu- 
lation of the sea-coast and the country inland — at Saint 
Anne la Palud, at Plougastel, "at Saint Wendel, at La 
Clarte, at Kerghoat, and many other places where these 
religious festivals and fairs are held. 

Here is Saint Anne la Palud, with its isolated church, 
that, from the desert where it stands, looks out upon the 
sea : moors, granite rocks, a few stunted and twisted 
trees, two or three little farm-houses, two or three gray 
pools hidden in the somber oasis of brush that bends 
before the ever-blowing wind of the ocean. In this vast 
arid plain dotted by low hills and hollowed out by fur- 



rows, on a solitary hill, the well of Saint Anne, which 
shelters the miraculous statuette of the saint, sends forth 
its sacred water that first forms a pool, and then flows 
farther down in a slender streamlet toward the bay 
whose plaintive moan can be heard at regular intervals. 

Occasionally the lowings of the cows mingle with this 
noise. These are the only sounds to be heard in this 

But one morning all this is changed. 

As in the time of the migrations of pastoral tribes, 
suddenly a village of tents springs up on this naked soil, 
with its inns, its shops, its sheds, and its stables. 

Brown or white tents of different sizes and shapes, 
with dark openings in their sides, shine in the sunlight. 

Around are the vehicles, the donkeys, and the horses. 

It is the last Sunday in August. 

And from the neighboring heights, on every path, 
over the rocks, on the plains below which fade into the 
blue of the sea covered with boats — from all sides, in a 
word, come lines of pilgrims with banners at their head. 

I have witnessed this remarkable scene, grand and 
variegated with a thousand costumes of somber or brill- 
iant colors. I have seen Chateaulin all black; Pleeben 
all brown ; Plonevez all blue ; Plougastel mingling to- 
gether the most vivid colors — yellows, greens, violets, 
and oranges — Plougastel, whose fishermen, with their 
superb attitudes, wear the Neapolitan caps, and whose 
women look like parrots with their large head-dresses 
raised on hoops. 

I have celebrated this Pardon of Saint Anne in my 
verses. I have described these fanatics arriving at the 
sacred fountain and, streaming with perspiration, worn 
out by the long journey, pouring bowlfuls of the icy 
cold water down their backs under their open shirts, 
and down their sleeves along their raised arms. 



But poetry refuses to describe those women whose 
blind faith extinguishes their modesty, and who dip in 
the miraculous water of the pool whatever part of their 
body may be diseased. 

I have tried to paint these people of another age 
streaming among the tents, gathering around the dram- 
shops or the chapels, mingling piety and drunkenness 
together under the surveillance of the gendarme, whose 
bicorn seems as much out of place here as it would have 
seemed at the procession of La Juive. 

But how describe all these strange beings, these beg- 
gars who gather behind the arch of the church, gesticu- 
lating, uttering groans and wild cries — shameless cries, 
shameless groups, maniacal contortions and balancings 
of hideous monsters, as nearly resembling the earth in 
color as the toads which hop about in the dry soil, and 
with here and there among the horrible filth of their 
rags and on their ghastly faces, like those of clowns, a 
red spot, which is a broken-out ulcer ! 

I have described the pious crowd surrounding the 
church. I have shown them winding like a long ribbon 
along the sea-shore, while the beggars, left behind, dance 
about, gathered together in mocking groups and, for- 
getting for a moment their sighs and groans, give them- 
selves up to jokes and jeers. 

I have tried to describe the innumerable groups seen 
through the smoke and the gathering shades of twilight 
assembled on the evening of the fete around the blazing 
fires kindled here and there between the tents, for the 
evening meal, while crowds of frolicsome urchins leap 
daringly through the flames. Then all these sounds die 
away one by one in the silence of the night, and nothing 
is heard but the hollow moaning of the sea. 

Finally, I have painted the sun breaking through the 
morning mists, lighting up Locronan seated midway on 


the gentle slope of its mountain, and Plougastel inton- 
ing its canticle, which is echoed from the cliffs, then 
dies away behind the high rocks at the foot of Menez 

But, whatever be the character of the multitude that 
press around Saint Anne de la Palud, the scene of 
action is so vast that, unhappily, the interest it awakens 
is picturesque and historic rather than personal. The 
imagination is more struck than the heart. 

At Kerghoat, on the contrary, a profound emotion 
takes possession of one to the exclusion of every other 
sentiment. Such was the case with me on the occasion 
of my first visit there. 

With the exception of the people of Plougastel and 
a few more distant parishes, the assemblage was almost 
the same as at Saint Anne's. 

The church of gray granite, defined against a back- 
ground of dark-green foliage, and standing near an oak- 
grove, was, as is customary at the Pardons, surrounded 
by a triple cordon of wax-candles, the offering of the 
neighboring parishes. The inclosure, dotted with graves, 
with here and there a rusty iron cross, was overgrown 
with the thick, bright-green grass peculiar to cemeteries. 

In the center was a Calvary. 

With an image of Christ on the cross were stone im- 
ages of saints, defaced by time, types whose pious de- 
formity awakened mystic dreams, and who presented 
some traits of resemblance with the faithful seated on 
the steps of the pedestal. 

The inclosure was crowded with people. 

The blind man of Ploare was stretched upon the 
grass in a drunken stupor. Other striking-looking beg- 
gars sang psalms near the apsis, while the prostrate crowd 
prayed in silence. 

I have already described the different types to be 



seen among this multitude — their beauties, their expressive 
ugliness, their strange, almost demoniac deformities ; and 
the pallid girls, ecstatic souls, whose eyes burned with 
fever, and whose waxen foreheads seemed to bleed under 
their red bands, like the miraculous wafers of the legends. 

There, too, were to be seen Chouans, with hawk- 
like faces, their yellow eyes shining through their long, 
tangled locks. 

There were the same costumes, with gold and blue 
spangles glittering through lace; the same subdued reds, 
like the rosy hues of dawn ; the same gorgeous harmonies 
of color. 

The multitude wore an expectant air. 

The shrine of the saint was about to appear. 

The tall trees cast over the scene that semi-obscurity 
of the woods characteristic of Celtic ceremonies. 

Stormy clouds, which had gradually gathered in the 
heavens, deepened this obscurity. The effect of the 
brilliant colors was heightened by this gloom, but the 
pallid faces of the sickly-looking girls looked paler still 
in this mystic light, while the sunburned complexions of 
the Chouans took on a sinister gray color. 

Everything breathed a sacred awe. 

Suddenly in the silence the bell sounds, shrill and 
clear ! 

The multitude rise to their feet. 

They press forward from all sides. 

Thousands of white head-dresses crowd together 
among the trees, looking like a vast sea of snow, rising 
and falling under the stormy sky. 

And the two thousand tapers in the hands of the 
multitude, lighted one from the other, blaze forth at 
once, casting around in the gloom a rosy glow, stars 
glowing in an earthly heaven, ardent as the souls that 
glow in this place of prayer. 


There is a movement at the entrance. The first 
banner, which they find necessary to lower passing under 
the arch, makes its appearance. 

It is heavy, and the man who carries it staggers, 
borne down by its weight. He stops, and by a violent 
effort which strains all his muscles lifts it up again. 

A crucifix — the face of a ghostly pallor, the arms 
fleshless — is represented on this barbaric ensign. 

The drummers beat their drums whose warlike sounds 
mingle with the strains of sacred psalms. 

They emerge from the shadows of the dark doorway, 
looking like portraits of Rembrandt. There are three 
of them — one with the face of an eagle, one with the 
face of a Christ, one with the face of a bandit. Plan, 
plan, plan ! They walk on, proud and full of emotion. 

Little girls, with gilt mitre-shaped head-dresses and 
red, embroidered frocks, pass on bearing the shrine, to- 
ward which every eye is eagerly turned. 

Then come the penitents. They walk with trembling 
step and bowed head, the expiatory tapers in their 
hands, their legs and feet bare, their open shirts dis- 
playing their hairy breasts ; their eyes, haggard and 
burning feverishly, shining through their tangled locks, 
blonde, black, or gray, that float behind them, blown, as 
it were, by the wind of remorse ; faces, some of them so 
fleshless that they already seem to belong to the charnel- 
house where the dead look at us from the eyeless sock- 
ets of their grinning skulls. 

Their sharp, emaciated features contrast with the 
religious peace of this starry field, where the flames of 
the tapers flicker on the death-like faces of shadowy 
virgins, whose souls soar in ecstatic rapture toward their 
heavenly home, for which more than one of them waits 
but the first chills of autumn to depart. 



It is twenty-five years since I witnessed the Pardon 
which I have just described, and which took place in 
1865. The character of this religious festival has prob- 
ably, along with everything else, undergone great modi- 
fications since that time. 

Many causes have contributed to this, among others 
and chiefly, the fatal war of 1870, which called all the 
young men of the country to arms. Adieu, then, bro- 
gou-craz and long locks ! And, too, the bourgeois, in 
search of sea-bathing, have invaded the scenes of these 
pilgrimages which were before unintruded upon by 

In 1873 we were again at Douarnenez, and we spent 
some delightful hours on the enchanting beach which 
winds among the rocks at the foot of the town. 

While I, in a retired nook, painted or wrote verses, 
Virginie played with her little companions beside her 
mother, who occupied herself in reading or sewing. 

But while she built castles with their moats in the 
sand and watched the waves washing them away, she 
was silently observing all that was taking place around 
her — children bathing in the sunshine or rolling on the 
sand, or washer-women wielding their swift and noisy bats. 

And, returning to our room, she would draw all this 
from memory. I have now hundreds of her sketches 
which are very curious, and in which her progress may 
be followed step by step. 

At one time I was a little alarmed by the ardor she 
displayed in her work and, fearing the effect on her 
growing brain, I forbade her to work in this way from 

For several months I saw no more sketches. 


Finding that she obeyed my command to the letter, 
and beginning to be uneasy lest her creative power 
might be weakened, I communicated my fears to my 

She spoke of the matter to Virginie, who confessed 
that she had continued to draw in secret. 

And it was with great delight that I found in the 
bottom of her bureau-drawer a heap of drawings, varied 
compositions, which were no longer the scrawls of the 
child, but which rendered expressive scenes very clearly 
and altogether in the style of the paintings she has since 
made. She had used for her drawings every scrap of 
paper that came in her way — leaves torn from note- 
books, old copy-books, envelopes of letters, on which 
she drew hasty sketches with the trepidation which ac- 
companies every forbidden act. 

One day as I was sitting on a rock on the beach of 
Douarnenez, sketching, I saw a dark, elegantly dressed 
young man, who formed the center of a group, advancing 
toward me over the moist sand which reflected the blue 
light from the zenith. He walked with rapid strides, 
his head raised, his right arm extended, declaiming 
verses in that mock-heroic manner in which irony and 
enthusiasm are blended, as if he did not wish to be 
taken altogether seriously while reciting to his friends 
these improvisations which displayed genuine poetic 
fervor. This sort of mock-heroism is another form of 

The exhilarating atmosphere had inspired him, and 
he called out to some of his companions, who had re- 
mained on the beach, " I have just found the last line of 
a superb sonnet ! " 

I had caught, from my seat on the rocks, the words 
of this last line : 

" En poussant de grands cris, je marchais dans le ciel ! " 



" Who is this crazy actor ? " I said to myself. 

On the following day I met him on the Ploare road, 
in the company of several artists who were returning 
from an excursion into the country. He wore a manila 
hat, around which was twisted a branch of honeysuckle 
plucked on the way. He carried, slung over his shoulder, 
with the triumphant air of a conqueror, a number of 
mushrooms tied in a white handkerchief which was fast- 
ened to the end of his umbrella. 

He was accompanied by a young lady of a Minerva 
type of beauty, and a charming little girl with eyes the 
color of black coffee, whom her nurse was carrying in 
her arms. 

He was declaiming in the same mock-heroic fashion 
as on the preceding day. 

Among the persons who accompanied him I per- 
ceived my friend Jundt and Moulin, the sculptor. They 
asked me to call on them in the evening, at the Hotel 
du Commerce, where all the members of this gay party 
were stopping. 

I had just returned to Douarnenez, where I had 
hired an apartment. 

Passing through Paris, I had bought at the railway- 
station Lemerre's " Anthologie." I must confess, to my 
shame, that for the first time I read there some verses of 
Leconte de Lisle. 

They had enchanted me. 

" Le Condor," " Les Hurleurs," L'Epc'e d 'An- 
gantyr, with their magnificent rhythm, their splendor 
of diction, the tragic horrors of their images, their pro- 
found insight into the spiritual, their wonderful melody, 
resounded ceaselessly in my memory and held me cap- 
tive by their spell. 

I had read there also with great delight " Les Aieules," 
of Coppee, that exquisite pastoral by a Parisian, in which 



I fancied I again saw the dear old Catharine of my 

In the evening, then, I presented myself at the Hotel 
du Commerce, as had been agreed upon. I found the 
party still at table. 

The conversation, in which the dark young man took 
an active part, was animated. 

Moulin made the introductions, and the pompous 
declaimer of the beach showed himself so simple and 
cordial that he won my heart at once. 

We naturally spoke of poetry, and of Leconte de 

" What ! " he cried, " you are a painter, and you have 
read and appreciate Leconte de Lisle ! " 

I confessed that I had only read him recently. 

He was an intimate friend of the great poet, and he 
recited various passages from his poems to me. He re- 
peated, too, some sonnets of his own, with whose splen- 
did plastic and heroic form every one is now familiar. 

And when I returned home, at a very late hour, I 
went to whisper to my wife, who had already retired : 
" You remember our handsome actor ? He is a charm- 
ing young man and an entertaining poet ; his name is 
Jose Maria de Heredia." 

It is to be conjectured that I, on my side, had not 
displeased him, for he came on the following day to see 
us. He inspired me with sudden confidence, and I con- 
fessed to him that I, too, made verses in secret. 

He took my manuscript away with him. 

He was so amiable as to take an interest in my 
verses, and he gave me excellent advice concerning 
many of their faults of inexperience. But where is the 
young poet (for I was young as a poet) who has not 
profited by the counsels of Heredia ? 

A close friendship soon united us. 




I had written some verses at college in 1843, and 
others at Courrieres in 1847, while convalescing from 
the illness which had interrupted my painting. 

Occasionally after that I felt the impulse to write 
verses, and in 1864 I wrote my first sonnet, "Courrieres," 
inspired by the plain of my native village dominated by 
its belfry-tower, a building whose happy proportions 
have been admired by all the architects who have 
seen it. 

It bears the date ^32, and was built by Charles V. 

Shortly afterward, inspired by the view of a pool 
sleeping in the shadow of the alders, I composed a little 
poem called " Le Soir," which, like the sonnet just men- 
tioned, is included in the collection, " Les Champs et la 
Mer." Then my poetic ardor had cooled. 

When the fatal year of 1870 arrived, I threw away 
my brushes and expended my energy in writing furious 
imprecations and wild stanzas, all of which I destroyed 
with the exception of two or three sonnets of a more 
moderate character, and which are included in the first 
edition of the before-mentioned work.* 

When this excitement passed away, my thoughts still 
continued to clothe themselves occasionally in the form 
of poetry. 

I found in this a new source of joy, and at the same 
time an outlet for certain aspirations which had begun 
to give my painting a too realistic character. 

* At this time my brother Emile, remembering that he had been 
a soldier, quitted his wife and child and joined the active troops at 
Pas-de-Calais. He was named commandant, and at the head of his 
battalion was one of those who protected the retreat of Faidherbe, 
after the battle of Saint Quentin. 



The appearance of " Les Champs et la Mer " pro- 
cured me the advantage of the friendship, formed at the 
house of my publisher and dear friend, Alphonse Le- 
merre, of some of the distinguished poets who are an 
honor to our literature. 

Then I grew more ambitious, and I was so daring as 
to conceive the project of writing a sort of pastoral epic. 

But, before telling how this idea came to my mind, I 
wish to devote a few lines to an artist whom I knew and 
loved, who was for ten years my colleague on the jury of 
painting, and who was the first to encourage me to write. 

I refer to Eugene Fromentin. 

He was a man of singularly delicate and refined 
nature, of a highly-strung temperament, and both amia- 
ble and noble-minded. 

Every one is familiar with his admirable qualities as 
a painter, and his distinguished gifts as a writer. Theo- 
phile Gautier has told me that he considered u L'Ete 
dans le Sahara " one of the masterpieces of our litera- 

How many beauties there are, too, in " L'Armee 
dans le Sahale," " Dominique," and u Les Maitres d'Au- 
trefois " ! 

He had made his dttut with some unpretentious little 
landscapes of his native place, which had attracted my 
attention in 1847. 

I was therefore greatly surprised when I saw his first 
pictures of Africa, two or three years later. A complete 
transformation had taken place in his style, which had 
become absolutely independent. Those strange can- 
vases looked at a distance like marble plaques, so con- 
fused seemed the masses formed by the groups of Arabs 
and camels enveloped in the rosy gray shadows of the 

But the eye soon learned to separate them, and the 



mystery, thus penetrated, gave rise to delightful emo- 

I remember a picture in this style, of some Arab 
women, running, laden with their leathern water-bottles. 
Oh, the delightful freshness of the first impressions of 
an unknown land ! 

Fromentin afterward became more concise, more 
learned ; but I have always regretted those first delight- 
ful flowers of his imagination. 

Every one who knew him will remember how great 
were his personal attractions. 

His frame was small, but perfectly well-propor- 

From his long sojourn in Africa he had acquired a 
resemblance to the Arabs, but in the vivacity of his 
manners and in his witty eloquence he was still a 

Amiable, cordial, and kind-hearted, intolerant of 
everything commonplace, upright and frank, Fromen- 
tin had gained the esteem and affection of his com- 
rades. His black eyes, full of expression, were brilliant 
and soft. 

I never pass before his little house in the Place 
Pigalle, now a restaurant, without thinking with emo- 
tion of our pleasant chats at the studio, in the company 
of a few congenial friends, among them my excellent 
friend Busson. 

In 1876 I was again in Brittany, and on a beautiful 
summer day I was contemplating, for the hundredth 
time, the wonderful Bay of Douarnenez, when an ac- 
quaintance handed me his newspaper, with the remark, 
" Fromentin is dead." 

This unexpected piece of intelligence petrified me 
with amazement and grief. 

I had so lately left him full of life and health ! A 



phlegmon, probably the result of a carbuncle, had caused 
his death after an illness of a few days, at La Rochelle, 
his native place. 

And I remember that, by a singular conincidence, 
the same bay that now stretched before me was the 
subject of the poem which I had dedicated to Fromen- 

And I recalled with keen emotion the words of the 
delightful letter of thanks he had written me, and 
which I preserve among my most precious autographs. 


I went to the fields to look for subjects and effects, 
and to plan new pictures, taking with me a wild little 
country-girl, who carried my box, and from time to 
time posed for me. 

She was a dark, slender child, full of spirits, and 
agile as a goat, and she would run about, her flying 
locks bronzed by the sun, fascinating by the playfulness 
of her every movement. 

She suggested to me a little poem which was the 
germ of Jeanne. It is in the " Chant de l'Enfance," 
and begins as follows : 

" Bientot Jeanne courut, pieds nus, par les chiens," 
and ending with this : 

" Le logis s'eclairait d'une lueur d'aurore ..." 

When I had written these verses, I had become so 
interested in my little girl, that I conceived the idea of 
making her the heroine of a long poem. Another of 
my models furnished me with the subject and the di- 
noAment of the plot, 



This latter was a foundling who had been brought 
up at Courrieres, but had been claimed by her mother, 
who was now in comfortable circumstances. She had 
refused to go back to her, however, preferring to remain 
with her adoptive parents, and to marry the peasant 
whom she loved. 

As for the various scenes and episodes, with the 
exception of a few passages referring to the origin of 
Jeanne, I drew them from my imagination. 

I have been asked why I made her an Indian. Why, 
because I wished to open up a new path toward the 
ideal, which has always haunted my imagination. 

I wished, too, to make Jeanne not only the peasant 
of Artois, but the primitive woman, with all her unculti- 
vated and natural instincts, in contrast with Angele, the 
tender and mystic daughter of our Christian soil. 

Was I wrong in not allowing myself to be hampered 
by the narrow limits of a province ? 

Never having been in India, I consulted authentic 
documents bearing on the subject. 

Besides, it is not my intention to defend the errors I 
may have committed. 

What exquisite pleasure has the writing of this poem 
afforded me ! 

What can there be more delightful than to create a 
little world and shut one's self up in it ? During four years 
I was absorbed in its life, mingling more with its imagi- 
nary characters than with the real world surrounding 

The art of the poet is more intoxicating than that of 
the painter ; for the succession of the tableaux and the 
thoughts, the rapidity of the images, the intensity of the 
sentiments, and the immateriality of the process, tend to 
maintain in the brain and the nervous system a perpetual 
and pleasing excitement. 



Painting, on the contrary, employs itself in the in- 
terpretation of a simple idea by palpable means. 

But how many resemblances there are between the 
two arts ! In both there are the same general laws of 
composition, of comparison, of rejection, of contrast, and 
of harmony. 

Often, at the movement of the rhythm, I fancied my 
pen was designing forms, while at the same time the 
sonorousness of the sounds produced upon me almost 
the effect of color. 

But, precisely because it is intoxicating, the labor of 
the poet is excessively fatiguing. I contracted in this 
way a nervous affection of the brain, accompanied 
by vertigoes which resembled trances and lasted for 

Since then the physicians have absolutely prohibited 
me from writing poetry. It is in order to take my re- 
venge for this that I write these memoirs. 

Prose, that one can take up and lay down at will, 
permits periods of repose to the mind which the linking 
together of the verses and the continual obsession of the 
rhymes render restless. 

Jeanne was published by Charpentier in 1880, and 
was afterward included in the " Petit Bibliotheque 
Literaire " of Alphonse Lemerre. 


In the same year (1880) I received a fresh blow in 
my tenderest affections. 

Madame Breton and I were taking some refreshment 
in the Cafe de l'Univers. It was at the beginning of 
May, and we were returning from the Exposition. 


We were speaking of the good De Winne, whom we 
were accusing of having forgotten us. 

We had had no news of him lately. He had not, as 
was his custom, been present at the opening of the 
Salon. He had not even acknowledged the receipt of 
my poem which I had sent him. 

Just as we were attributing De Winne's silence to 
his incorrigible laziness, we perceived our cousin Paul 
de Vigne, the sculptor, driving rapidly in an open car- 
riage across the Place du Palais Royal. 

We called to him gayly, and we were surprised to 
see him approach us with strong marks of agitation on 
his countenance. 

He held out to me a telegram which he had just re- 
ceived, containing the words : " De Winne, pneumonia ; 
desperate condition. Come." 

I need not describe our consternation. We returned 
home. A similar dispatch awaited us there, which was 
soon followed by another containing these words : " All 
is ended." 

You know what a fraternal friendship united me to 
De Winne. I set out immediately for Brussels, a prey 
to the most poignant anguish. 

We have seen the trials he had experienced at the 
outset of his career. We have seen him again in the 
Boulevard du Mont Parnasse. We last saw him at the 
moment when I threw myself into his arms, asking his 
pardon for having, in an access of mental suffering, sus- 
pected his loyal friendship. I could say much more re- 
garding this artist, who was a great portrait-painter. 

It will be remembered that he painted a biblical sub- 
ject, the " Parting of Ruth and Naomi," while I was 
painting my first picture of " The Harvesters." 

With what emotion we regarded those canvases 
which cheated our hopes — pallid and insignificant paint- 


ings which the public did not even glance at when they 
were exhibited in the Salon of 1853 ! 

But Lievin de Winne shortly after painted a picture 
which showed what he was capable of, " The Ecstatic 
Vision of Saint Francis of Assisi," in which the young 
artist suddenly developed remarkable power, and which 
created a sensation at the Exhibition at Brussels, where 
it was exhibited in 1854. 

On his return to Ghent at this epoch, he painted a 
11 Christ on the Mount of Olives," but, his hesitations re- 
turning to him, he did not succeed in giving this picture 
the virile qualities of the u Saint Francis." Then he 
went to Holland, whence he returned dazzled with the 
magic light of Rembrandt. He painted, then, several 
brilliant portraits of a powerful composition, but marred 
by too yellow a tinge. 

The portrait of Felix de Vigne which he made 
shortly afterward bears a trace of this defect, but it is a 
masterly work, full of life, strongly modeled, the grounds 
broad, and faultless in drawing. 

In 1858 our artist, whose ambition it was to be a 
great historical painter, executed an important picture, 
"The Holy Women at the Tomb of Christ." He 
showed at this time the influence of the German paint- 
ers, and especially of Schnor. 

This was contrary to his own nature, which was all 
sincerity and simplicity. Therefore " The Holy Wom- 
en " is only a passably good picture, notwithstanding 
the persistent labor expended on it. This did not pre- 
vent him from planning a large picture, and he fixed 
upon the subject, " An Orgy of the Roman Caesar while 
Some Slaves Are Being Put to Death." 

He spoke of this picture with a great deal of enthu- 

One day he procured more than twenty volumes on 



the subject of Roman history, shut himself up all the 
evening in his study, and after all he read none of them. 

It will be seen by these prepossessions that our artist 
would have become a historical painter had it not been 
that his education was neglected, owing to the misfor- 
tunes of his early youth. His imagination, powerful in 
reality, was always impeded by this want. He felt this, 
and suffered from it, but, at the age when he might still 
have instructed himself, he had not the necessary time 
to do so, for he was obliged to give all his attention to 
earning a livelihood. 

A sprightly gayety had succeeded to Lievin's former 
gloom. This gayety had become the indispensable ali- 
ment of his ardent soul. 

He had suffered so much that he had taken a hatred 
to suffering, whose specter terrified him. His heart was 
profoundly compassionate, but, while he would give gen- 
erously and promptly to succor distress, he shrank from 
the sight of misery. 

This was the only thing in his character that resem- 
bled selfishness. 

He was at once the most neglectful and the most 
faithful of friends. He displayed in his friendship the 
most delicate thoughtfulness and the most inexplicable 
forgetfulness — transitory periods of oblivion in which 
his heart slept, suddenly to awaken full of affectionate 

On such occasions he would smother one in his em- 
braces, and respond to the reproaches addressed to him 
by such outrageous and apparently well-grounded 
charges that one ended by believing them one's self, 
hardly knowing whether to laugh or to cry. 

But, if he sometimes succeeded in escaping pain, he 
was always powerless to repress the violent irritation 
which every species of injustice caused him. 


As an artist he was never envious ; he delighted in 
speaking well of his fellow-artists, but he was always 
pitiless toward triumphant mediocrity. 

Whenever his friends asked, his opinion of their 
work, he gave it with a frankness that sometimes bor- 
dered on brutality. 

And what valuable counsels he gave ! Never again 
will he give me those wise counsels ; and my pictures, at 
the critical moment, will wait for him in vain in the vil- 
lage which he so often lighted by his presence — the vil- 
lage of Courrieres, where every one was so glad to see 
him, and where he loved, of a Sunday, to join in the 
amusements of his friends the peasants, whose hands, 
hardened by toil, he would press so cordially between 
his own. 

The poor, too, have mourned him. 

Since the year 1861 De Winne had lived in Brussels ; 
he had bought there the comfortable house built by Otto 
de Thoren, the Austrian painter, who died recently in 
Paris, where several fine paintings had brought him into 

De Winne had painted the portraits of the Count 
and Countess of Flanders, and of King Leopold I, and 
his reputation was firmly established. 

As a preparation for the portrait of the king, he had 
first painted a camaieu, which is now in the museum in 

This work is a masterpiece ; all the sagacity of the 
diplomat, all the intellectual power of the scholar, all 
the majesty of the king, are expressed in this portrait 
which I have seen a hundred times with ever new ad- 

The modeling is of extraordinary delicacy and force. 
What incisive and flexible touches ! The traits of the 
illustrious old man have been, so to speak, caught on the 



wing and fixed on the canvas forever. The king is there, 
forever living. Holbein might have been proud to paint 
this camaieu. 

Parisians will remember the famous portrait of Mr. 
Sandfort, an American, who is represented wearing an 
eyeglass and holding his hat in his hand. It was per- 
haps the finest portrait of (he International Exposition 
of 1878. Other portrait-painters have displayed more 
pomp, more technical skill, but not one has depicted 
by more legitimate means or with profounder insight 
the masterpiece of creation — the human being. 

What first strikes one in all De Winne's portraits are 
an indescribable air of austerity and familiarity blended, 
a sweet and gentle severity, unity, variety, and that ease, 
that tranquil power which results from the harmony of 
the parts and which is the highest quality of the true 
artist. Here are no miracles of composition ; here is 
no apparent effort. The characters regard you calmly 
from the depths of their souls, and reflect what is in their 

Such was my opinion, such was the opinion of the 
jury of the International Exposition of 1878, who unani- 
mously voted him a first medal, after eleven votes had 
been given him for the medal of honor, which is only 
accorded to important compositions. 

His later portraits, some of which were interrupted 
by death, show that De Winne was capable of even still 
better things. 

I have tried to characterize in a few words his other 
pictures, but what shall I say of those where art itself 
disappears, or where only the thought of the artist guides 
his hand, dominating matter so completely that it seems 
to shine with its own brightness, to show two things 
only, the individuality of the subject and that of the 



When I arrived in Brussels for the funeral I had not 
seen any of these latter works, with the exception of an 
unfinished portrait of my brother Louis, one of the most 
extraordinarily life-like portraits I have ever seen. 

On this day, when the creative hand was still in 
death, and when, shaken by sobs, I hurried up the stairs 
which I had so often ascended, my heart beating joy- 
fully, when, entering the studio filled still with the pres- 
ence of the artist, I found myself face to face with those 
superb and unpretending pictures, so spiritual, yet so 
life-like, my grief was changed to pious ecstasy and — 
touching mystery ! — it seemed to me as if Lievin's spirit, 
mingling with the spirits of those he had so faithfully 
portrayed, was regarding me. I felt it still present, still 
in communication with mine, and in this feeling — con- 
soling thought ! — I found something like an assurance of 
his immortality. 


Here my memoirs end. 

I do not wish to close this book, however, without 
casting a glance at the Exhibition of the paintings of 
the present century in the Champs de Mars, which has 
just closed. 

This Exhibition has caused hardly any modification 
in my opinions regarding the works I have just men- 
tioned, and it has still further confirmed the authority 
of the true masters for whom I had for a long time past 
entertained the sincerest admiration. 

But how delightful to be able to behold in a few 
hours all the masterpieces seen at different times, and 
of which each successive impression was naturally weak- 
ened by the one following it ! 



How instructive for the public, to be able to com- 
pare these masterpieces with one another ! How quick- 
ly this comparison brings back to the right path the 
judgment too often led astray by the exaggerated en- 
thusiasms of private exhibitions, and still more by the 
incense of the coteries ! 

Thus it is that from some elevated plateau one sur- 
veys at a glance the road traversed during the heat of 
the day. 

Such a view did I obtain, not long since, from the 
pass of the Aspin, in the Pyrenees. And scarcely had 
I taken in the marvelous scene of the valley of the 
Arrau than the clouds that had been slowly gathering 
at my feet spread their thick veil over the landscape 
and burst in a water-spout, plunging everything into 

But soon the somber curtain opened again, and the 
valley was disclosed to view, more glorious than before. 

Thus will time dispel the moral cloud of which the 
International Exposition was but the apparent cause. 

French art traverses the world like those broad rivers 
that flow on, free and peaceful, but irresistible in their 
course. Let us not separate this river into little streams, 
which the storm might indeed swell and send noisily on 
their way for a time, but which in ordinary weather 
would flow only through barren soil. 

Let there be no unprofitable dissensions, and let the 
light which the great Exposition of 1889 has diffused, 
by bringing together so many masterpieces, long con- 
tinue to shine. 

But, rich as this Exposition was, it would have been 
still more so if all the artists admitted there had been 
represented, like a few of the favored ones, by their best 

For example, if we were so fortunate as to see there 


the " Sacre " of David, and the " Eighteenth Brumaire M 
of Bouchet, why, I ask, was a certain Jupiter with I 
know not what nymph (nor do I desire to know), ad- 
mitted — one of the worst works of our great artist In- 
gres, who, as we are aware, at times committed strange 
mistakes ? 

The great landscape-painter, Rousseau, was repre- 
sented there by several canvases belonging to the epoch 
when, confining himself too much to his own inspiration, 
the puissant recluse had ended, alas ! by producing 
trivialities such as a prisoner in his cell might have 
amused his solitude by painting. 

The two or three little panels which are worthy of 
him do not supply the place of his absent masterpieces. 

Neither do the paintings of Daubigny, scattered at 
random, give any just idea of the merits of this delight- 
ful artist. 

I do not blame the committee of organization for 
this. Doubtless they had insurmountable difficulties to 
contend against. 

Neither did I see there the best works of Delacroix, 
nor those of Gustave Moreau. 

And instead of the " Lady Macbeth " of Miiller, why 
was not his " Appeal of the Victims of the Reign of 
Terror " exhibited — a picture which was so greatly ad- 
mired at Versailles, where it has since been placed ? 

But to many of those who knew Charlet only from 
his popular lithographs, of which, it must be confessed, 
many are commonplace, his " Retreat from Moscow " 
was a revelation. They had not expected so powerful 
and dramatic a scene from him. The M Leonardo da 
Vinci " of Jean Gigoux and his u Portrait of a Gen- 
eral," life-like as a Reynolds, also awakened a great 
deal of interest. 

Let us salute, in passing, one of our most valiant 


veterans, Jean Gigoux, who, at eighty-four, continues to 
paint, without relaxation, works full of tender and natu- 
ral feeling, and heads of young girls, full of a touching 

Our dear Baudry was badly represented by some 
portraits, the greater number in his inferior manner — 
his best painting, " The Pearl and the Wave," having 
been relegated to a distance from his panel, which, like 
that of Bastien Lepage, was hung on a lateral wall of 
the chapel of Manet. 

For some years past the impressionists have occupied 
public attention, and it is but natural that they should 
have been put in a conspicuous place. 

Their admirers on the committee, however, restrained 
no doubt by the sense of responsibility entailed by 
their delicate functions, admitted scarcely any but their 
earlier pictures, those whose reputation is established, 
and I must confess that they did not seem to me very 
striking ; some of them, indeed, I thought very inferior. 

But if, on the one hand, though doubtless uninten- 
tionally, the importance of Manet, the recognized leader 
of the impressionist school, was exaggerated, perhaps, on 
the other, those who call themselves his followers were 
hardly done justice to. 

Remembering former ridicule they feared to expose 
themselves to this again. But the public does not now 
laugh at those things ; and, besides, ridicule no longer 
kills in Paris. 

They had wished to throw wide the doors to innova- 
tors, and they hesitated at the names of those who might 
have made good their claim to that title ; or rather, as I 
said before, they have admitted only their least charac- 
teristic works. 

I can not believe that posterity will recognize a leader 
in Manet, who is rather a mediocre pupil of Goya and 


Velasquez, and, later, of the Japanese school, while I 
remember to have seen some interesting and striking 
efforts in the midst of those fantastically iridescent land- 
scapes that one seems to look at through the stopper of 
a decanter, or those pictures that seem as if made by 
machinery for birthday presents for grandpapas — those 
cows with wonderful horns, those boatmen overlaid 
with saffron, paddling in water the color of washing-blue 
(I do not here refer to Manet) ; in the midst of this St.- 
Vitus'-dance of Nature in the paroxysm of an hysterical 
attack, I remember, as I said, to have seen in some private 
exhibitions some works of this school whose strange- 
ness attracted me — white lakes quivering in opalescent 
lights, where real breezes blow from the silvery sky 
and bend the yeltow reeds — charming pictures, in 
which familiar graces are presented under a fresh 

Since the honor was accorded to the impressionists 
of admitting them to the Blue Dome, why not have 
chosen, at least, some of their poetic essays ? 

At the present day more words are invented than 
things — in art, at least. 

Are not all who seek the Ideal in the Real, impres- 
sionists ? 

But cliques have always sought to monopolize the 
exclusive use of the best things — including the finest of 
the red carnations. 

By impressionism may perhaps be meant the confused 
impressions of neurosis, for impression in its true sense 
is eternal ! 

It is the whole of art ! 

At other epochs it was called inspiration, the divine 
fire. By Topper it was called a sixth sense, and by 
Boileau himself a hidden power. 

There is a saying so true as to be a commonplace : 


* There is nothing new under the sun ! " Not even 

It has been said that this artist delivered the French 
school of painting from the sauces of the Bolognese 
kitchen ; it must be in jest that this stereotyped phrase 
is repeated in turn to every novice, for the French 
school of art has long ceased to be influenced by that 
of Bologna. 

He made war upon shadow, it has also been said. 
Another jest ! Was Prudhomme right, then, when he 
said that shadow is one of the imperfections of painting ? 

Answer, O Rembrandt, magician who shinest in the 
darkness ! 

But Prudhomme, without suspecting it, meant black 
and false shadows ; and the friend to whom he spoke 
would not have complained of the cigar he had blamed 
the painter for having placed under the nose in his por- 
trait if the shadow had been true, for he would not then 
have seen this shadow any more than he sees the shad- 
ows in Nature. 

And, for my part, I would say to many of those 
young painters who, through a horror of false shadows, 
fall into a dull and leaden coloring worse than the Bo- 
lognese sauce : Paint shadows that the bourgeois will 
not see. 

I would give the same advice with respect to those 
famous violet tints in the shadows which Prudhomme 
has ridiculed, and with reason, in the work of certain 
impressionist painters. If those violet tints seem to him 
exaggerated, it is not because they are violet ; they 
might without detriment be still more so. It is because 
they are out of harmony, because they are not in accord 
with the contiguous tones. If harmony of coloring were 
preserved, an arm, a leg, a head, lighted from the blue 
heavens, would seem to Prudhomme the natural color 



of flesh, although a logical brush would mingle with its 
coloring a tinge of true violet. 

What I mean by atmosphere is the play of ambient 
reflections under the broad sky ; not that white, even 
light in which the values are altogether absent. 

Harmony, that magician, can make use of all tones, 
the most intense and the most discordant, by bringing 
them into accord and transfiguring them in its enchant- 
ing orchestration. 

How many pretended impressionists have introduced 
only the discords of reflections ! 

But let us come to the painters of whom we have yet 
to speak. 

Bastien Lepage will leave a lasting fame. This 
young artist, cut down in the flush of his promise, was a 
true investigator. 

How conscientious was his work ! 

He made his dibut with a masterpiece, the " Portrait 
of my Grandfather." Touching familiarity, simple and 
accurate drawing, admirable truth of tone, strong and 
fine harmony, just relation of the figure to the back- 
ground — all are there. 

But why did he in his pictures attach equal impor- 
tance to all the details, even the insignificant ones, 
without sufficiently considering their relative values? 
But if what we call the envelope is wanting, how many 
true touches are there ! 

And how can we sufficiently admire the marvelous 
little panel in which he has immortalized his brother 
Emile ! 

France, in Bastien Lepage, has lost her Holbein. 

If Rousseau, Delacroix, Baudry, and Daubigny were 
not represented by their best works, at least we may say 
that the finest pictures of Troyon sustain well the fame 
of this animal painter. 


The pictures of Millet, too, have been chosen from 
among the masterpieces which, realizing more than the 
superficial aspects of things, evoke dreams of simple 
rural life. 

There were in the Exhibition " The Gleaners," " The 
Man with the Hoe," " The Sheep-fold," and a less well- 
known landscape, of an impressive charm, where rise 
hills covered with austere verdure, and impenetrable 
hedges border the meadows along the roadside, while 
the warm rays of a clouded sun shine through the misty 
atmosphere — a picture rendered still more moving by a 
sort of conscious unskilfulness full of childlike candor. 

There were those humble farm-houses which exhaled 
a thousand rural effluences in the peaceful surroundings 
of familiar lowings and sunburnt plains tawny with dust 
and the emanations of the wheat. 

And the Corots, the incomparable Corots, so resplen- 
dent with ideal beauty that they transport one to heaven, 
so true to Nature that in seeing them one fancies one is 
looking through an open window upon Nature's self ! 

These pictures awakened universal admiration. 

Why were you not there to witness it, good Father 
Corot, as you were called by your contemporaries ? 
And, indeed, who could be more paternal than this great 
painter, who never married, and who at first sight looked 
like a worthy farmer, with his wide trousers and his ample 
waistcoat buttoned to the chin ? What good-nature, but 
what brilliancy also, and what intelligence in his gentle 
glance ! What a clear, serene forehead ! What love, 
what charity did that mobile mouth express, the lips 
pressed together at times and the corners turning down 
slightly ! For his was not the commonplace amiability 
which keeps the mouths of many superficially good- 
natured people stretched in a continual smile. 

And this man, so modest in his tastes, who addressed 


grateful apostrophes to bis dear little pipe, this frugal 
epicurean who went into raptures over the savoriness of 
a simple pot-au-feu or a fat pullet, this man so ingenuous 
and so little vain, had a just appreciation of his high 
value as an artist. 

He would have witnessed tranquilly and without 
astonishment the triumph he obtained at the Exposition 
of 1889. This does not mean that he had ever expected 
it; no, he had been too long neglected by the public to 
have any faith in its justice. And yet his life was a 
continual overflow of pure joy, nourished by the spec- 
tacle of Nature, which he adored. 

I seem to see him now in the studio of the Rue 
Paradis-Poissonniere, when he showed me one of his new 
pictures, saying : " Look at that sky, you little villain ; 
how it shines of itself! You can see nothing else for 
it ! " And afterward, at Douai, at the house of our fel- 
low-artist Robaut, and at Arras, at the house of his 
faithful friend Dutilleux, who had also a keen and deli- 
cate feeling for Nature. And that day when, making a 
study of the fortifications of the city, I dared to remark 
to the great painter that one of his values seemed to me 
a little pale, and he took his black hat, and comparing 
it with the corresponding value in the subject of his 
sketch, said to me, " See if it is too pale." 

And as I objected that he was not going to paint his 
hat in the study, he answered, u He is right, the little 
fellow ! " 

Such was the candor of this excellent man and great 

He did me the distinguished honor of coming to see 
me at Courrieres in i860. I went to meet him. We 
walked through the woods and the plains, indulging all 
the way in expressions of childlike delight. 

The merest nothing, a bud freshly opened, the tender 


shoot of a plant, was sufficient to launch him into po- 
etry, and what poetry ! 

Our circumstances were still somewhat straitened. 
There was no luxury at the table of my uncle, whose 
guest he was. But we knew his fondness for a tender 
and succulent leg of mutton, cooked to a turn, a good 
juicy pullet, and strong coffee ; all these we gave him, and, 
besides, a bottle of old Romanee Conti from the cellar. 

During the whole time of his stay he enchanted us 
with his gayety and good-humor. 

In the midst of our gayety, however, a thoughtful 
look suddenly crossed his face. He had observed in 
my wife, who for nine months had nursed our Virginie, 
unmistakable signs of exhaustion, and he urged the 
necessity of weaning the child without delay, adding 
that it was high time to do so; then, turning to me 
v/ith a severe expression, which I had never before seen 
on his face, he said, "Can you not see this, too?" 
None of us had observed it. 

My wife followed his advice, and the proof of the 
necessity for doing so was that she was seriously ill for 
several months afterward, and I feared for a time that I 
was going to lose her. 

Heaven only knows how much I owe our great 
painter for his friendly advice ! 

Corot, who was the first to depict poetically atmos- 
phere and the infinite depths of the sky, is perhaps the 
most original genius of our modern school of art, al- 
though he has drawn his inspiration from Claude Lor- 
raine, and still more from Poussin. 

He is the purest, the most tender, the most fascinat- 
ing, the most spiritual, the most animated, and, although 
his unity gives an appearance of sameness to his works, 
in reality one of the most versatile of our contemporary 



Each of his landscapes is a hymn of serene purity, 
where everything, however, lives, rejoices, loves, and 

He has expressed in natural surroundings, earthly 
realities and the ideals of Olympus and of Eden, pre- 
serving naturalness and simplicity, even in the subtle 
refinements of taste. Genius made of dawn and spring- 
time ! Eternal sunshine, that age has not been able to 
chill ! A child in the freshness of his enthusiasm ; a 
thinker in the sureness of his profound knowledge ! 

We say the divine Mozart ; we may also say the di- 
vine Corot, for he is the Mozart of painting ! And with 
all this he has the good-natured simplicity of a country 

Paris may well be proud of having given him birth. 

O France, who hast produced such artists, glory to 

Glory to thee, also, for having thrown open the vast- 
est arena to the noblest combats of human genius ! 

my country ! Thou, for whom we have wept, 
believing thee lost, when thou wast bleeding from every 
pore, behold, thou hast just given the most astonishing 
proof of life in creating this immense beehive, where, 
from all the confines of the earth, have come countless 
swarms of industrious bees, whose pacific humming has 
drowned the vain noise of warlike clarions ! 

1 have lived to see this miracle, and I thank Heaven 
for it. France will not stop here, and my daughter will 
one day say to her dear husband, the hearts of both filled 
with pious emotion at the sight of some new wonder 
sprung from the genius of our beloved country, what I 
have so often repeated, " Would that our fathers could 
see this ! " 




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